By Robert L. Johnson
Good nutrition is equally important to all living things, yet although many studies have been made on the feeding of cattle, sheep, horses, swine, dogs, cats and birds, the minor economic status of the goat and the folklore about its dietary habits has caused little research to be done on its basic differences and particular needs. The modern dairy goat has been bred to produce a great quantity of milk in proportion to her body weight, yet she is descended from, and carries the characteristics of, her wild ancestors that roamed vast land areas, selecting for their needs from a great variety of browse and forage plants, getting no supplemental grain, and producing just enough milk to feed their kids for a couple of months. Natural selection favored goats that were tough, hardy, and resistant to disease. We have penned this creature in a comparatively small area, thus exposing her to very limited browse (if any) and to concentrated parasite burdens, and we have bred her to produce superabundant quantities of milk. Unless her diet is adequate in both quantity and quality, we are asking the impossible of her; and opening the doors to poor health, disease, lessened production and shortened life span.
Conventional wisdom and modern books on dairy goats treat them as animals with productive life spans of 7 or 8 years. Many goats do not even survive that long, although old magazines, books and records show that goats in the past lived 12 to 18 years, often productive to the last. Good nutrition will do much to offset the ill effects of our relatively un-natural husbandry methods and breeding efforts. It is important to remember that our modern high-production dairy goats have nutritional needs that are not easily met, especially on conventional diets of hay, too much grain, salt blocks and water.
There are a few major considerations to ponder, prior to delving into a nutritional-supplement program.
First: nutrition is not a cure-all for all ills of animals and man. Good nutrition will help prevent many disease problems from arising in the first place; for the immune system of an organism weakened by deprivation obviously is not functioning effectively. But nutritional deprivation is not the sole cause of disease. Genetics plays a big role; some animals are born with inefficient immune systems, different degrees of assimilation and feed-conversion efficiency, and/or predisposition to certain ailments. Goats are kept under a great variety of husbandry methods, some of which may induce stresses, increase the chance of accidents, or expose the goats to concentrated burdens of disease-producing organisms (or poisons) that overwhelm their defenses. When one is promoting something new, it is natural to emphasize the merits and downplay the demerits, in the attempt to persuade the unconvinced. Then when the person taking the new supplement becomes ill, or is not helped, it is perhaps human nature that he would conclude that the new product was of no merit, and further trials are often abandoned. Thus many nutritional therapies that might have worked do not get the chance–especially as we Americans, being impatient folk used to instant results (such as taking an aspirin and getting immediate pain relief) are not used to the slower response times of some nutritional therapies. When you’re anxious about a sick animal, desire for fast results is understandable. One must always remember that antibiotics and drugs act in different ways from nutritional elements – the former act on the symptoms; nutrition acts systematically to restore health and optimum systemic function. On the other hand, to use nutritional therapy alone in the face of active disease requires a good understanding of what ailment one is dealing with, as well as the actions of the various nutrients. Vitamins and minerals given in moderate to large doses as adjuncts to other therapy are one thing and such treatment is supportive and beneficial. To use supplements alone in massive therapeutic doses, without additional treatment, is quite another; in certain ailments use of such treatment involves the risk of losing the animal. Thus one must exercise good judgment as to when to try home treatment including nutritional therapy, and when to seek professional help. Remember always that vitamins, minerals and amino acids all work together and in a delicate balance; to use massive doses of one or two is to upset this balance, and there are but few times when this is indicated. It is always easier to prevent disease than to cure it; prevention is the purpose of nutrition – a well-nourished goat will have a healthy immune system which will speed healing and fight off most bacterial and viral invaders; after these have overwhelmed the defenses and produced sickness, additional help may be needed.
Second: The economics of animal-keeping plays a decisive role in terms of decisions as to the kinds of food supplements and treatments to employ. In large herds, such as commercial goat dairies, the time and cost invested in feed supplements and treatments must of necessity be more limited, and the herdsperson doubtless has already established basic parameters for his stock, including the decision to cull animals that are “poor doers” or always coming down with something, whatever their other merits, and to spend within a budgeted amount for feed supplements and treatments. On the other hand, breeders with some very valuable breeding stock, or the family with a few much-loved pet goats, may devote whatever time, money and attention the health and treatment of their animals requires. Most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes–but whatever we wish or expect from our goats will determine the amount we are willing to invest in them. If you are happy with a goat that milks well for 5 or 6 years and you have plenty of replacement stock, you may conclude that your animals can get by on lower-cost, lower quality feeds, without ‘elaborate, expensive’ additives. If you are interested in developing a line of stock that will live, milk and kid happily for 12 to 16 years, you will benefit and make progress toward your goals by investigating, studying and applying nutritional supplementation.
Nutritional supplements are used in three ways–as dietarysupplements to build and maintain health and hopefully prevent the onslaught of disease; as supportive treatments, in combination with other therapies, and alone in therapeutic doses as the sole treatment. The subject of nutrition is too complex to attempt to completely cover in an article such as this; thousand-page books on the subject exist that still leave unanswered questions, and research is still ongoing. This article is intended to provide basic information on the known nutrients and practical instructions to the goatkeeper. We’ll omit reference to therapeutic treatments save for a couple of safe examples, and will concentrate on brief descriptions of the vitamins and minerals, their functions in goats, and their provision beyond amounts normally provided in feeds, hays and browse.
We will discuss the minerals first, since goats have the highest requirements for minerals of all ruminants on a body weight basis; and as we breed our goats for greater milk–production, we obtain animals whose mineral requirements have increased to the point that it is difficult for them to obtain sufficient to meet their needs from pasture, hay, and the standard dairy/grain rations that the majority of us feed. The goat’s metabolic rate is higher and the area and capacity of the caprine rumen is larger in proportion to body size than that of the cow, sheep or horse. In most books on goatkeeping you will read that in the early stage of lactation, a high-producing dairy goat cannot obtain enough protein, energy, fibre and minerals to meet the demands of the udder, and thus she draws on her reserves, stored in her bones, to make up the deficit. She can only do this if her mineral “bank” is substantial, her bones well-mineralized, and if her diet has included the necessary minerals in the right proportion, along with the vitamins and other dietary factors that allow for complete absorption and utilization of the minerals she does receive.
By nature, goats are browsing– not grazing- animals. Two reasons for this stand out: (l) the goat with its proportionately larger digestive system is more subject to parasite attack, and Nature teaches the goat to reach up for its food, out of the way of the harmful stomach, intestinal and lung worms that can do much damage. (2) The goat’s high mineral requirements are not satisfied by grass, which is very low in mineral content; weeds, herbs and other forage plants, bushes and trees furnish greater amounts or minerals than any of the grasses. Goats will eat grass, but usually must be starved for vitamin A and other nutrients that grass does contain, (as well as having no browsing alternative) before they will. This is a dependable marker – the success of one’s mineral supplementation program can be measured by putting goats out on grass pastures with few or no weeds or other browse–if the goats’ requirements are being met, they will largely ignore the grass. Our own grassy hillside pastures offer little more than a place to roam and play for our goats, and we must mow the grass periodically or the goats let it grow up waist- high. Only the young kids will nibble the grass as they experiment with solid feeds; and the fresh flush of grass in the spring is a welcome change of diet for the adult goats that are bored with hay after a long winter. (We mow anyway, to keep the grass short and thus enable the sun to destroy some of the parasites.) But we daily let our goats out into a wooded area near a small creek where honeysuckle, weeds, trees, thorn bushes, vines and blackberry brambles grow, and they are hardly out the gate until they are gorging on this mineral-rich, parasite-free browse. If you are looking for animals to keep grass mowed for you, think sheep.
The goat is instinctively intelligent enough to know its requirements and to select for these from the feedstuffs available to it. However, most American dairy goats are kept under conditions where it is difficult for them to meet their nutritional needs. Unless they have access to large areas of mixed browse, their usual diet consists of commercial dairy mixes, many of which have ingredients of unknown qualities; hays, in many cases obtained from depleted or over-fertilized lands and/or made primarily from single types of grasses instead of the varied mixtures goats prefer; and often nothing more than a salt block provided. These fall far short of providing the nutrients in the variety and quantity that dairy goats, especially, require; the inevitable results are off-flavored milk, loss of production, ill health, and shortened lives.
We will not attempt here to do more than briefly list and describe the minerals and their functions–this has been done and done well, many times over; the information is available in a variety of publications. Probably the best book on the subject is Feeds and Nutrition by Ensminger and Olentine; a huge 1,417-page volume that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know and then some, about animal nutrition. Hundreds of other publications discuss nutrients and their actions in animals and Man. Anyone who intends to keep more than a couple of pet goats should search out and read the 3rd edition of the late David MacKenzie’s classic book Goat Husbandry (Faber and Faber) which contains the best condensed discussion of the goat and its mineral requirements that we know of; then turn for more detailed information to Ensminger & Olentine. This writer has stretched himself out over Feeds and Nutrition for years and, as with MacKenzie’s book, still always finds tidbits not noted before.
The purpose of this article is to give practical instructions to the goat-breeder in how to improve the diet and the health of his/her goats. Let’s begin with some don’ts. Be sure that you:
(1) Do not feed salt or minerals in block form. Blocks cannot supply the quantity of nutrients goats need; goats have been known to break their teeth trying to work with blocks; and some mineral blocks can become toxic if allowed to get damp or wet. Blocks are also not balanced for the requirements of goats. Loose salt, baking soda and mineral mixtures are a must!
(2) Do not feed any feed, protein or mineral/vitamin block containing urea. Check the labels carefully–urea is toxic to goats. Avoid any that contain animal by-products.
(3) Do not feed any salt, mineral or vitamin mixtures that have flavor-enhancers added to induce consumption. We want to make use of the goat’s natural ability to select for its needs. A sick animal, one off feed or a kid being taught to eat mixes may need a little such tempting to get it eating; other than that, goats’ own instincts can be trusted.
(4) Do not feed minerals or other supplements out of containers that have been used for other chemicals or that have been painted. Salt and salt/mineral mixtures are very corrosive and will attack all metals save stainless steel; also, the soldered joints of some containers contain lead–and lead is an ingredient that is not natural in the goat’s diet. The goat has no instinctive warning system against lead–in fact, goats seem attracted to lead and lead oxides (which have a sweetish taste) as a child is to candy. Plastic and wood, glass, or stainless steel are safe to use.
So much for the warnings. The most important thing you can do to meet the mineral requirements of goats is to install a mineral feeder with multiple compartments in which you put a variety of supplements that are always available to the goats, free-choice. After numerous trials, Pine Cone Valley has evolved a mineral and supplements feeder that works well. It consists of two parts: a frame, and a 10- compartment removable tray. The feeder can be hung on the barn wall, or, with legs added, can be free-standing. Its slanted roof prevents kids jumping and sleeping on it. A block placed in front allows small kids access to it. Plans are included at the end of this article. The one described has space for ten different products, though we usually use it for five, putting the same things in two compartments each. Of course it may be made longer to accommodate larger herds. Since some goats are more timid, in large herds it is better to have two or more such feeders and hang them in different places, than to enlarge a single feeder. It is important not to put the feeder in an inside corner, as some goats will feel trapped and will avoid it when more dominant herd members are present.
The feeder is a simple carpentry project, built from wood. So-called “one-inch” commercial boards of planed pine, maple, sycamore or poplar, (actually 3/4″ thick) are used. The frame can be nailed or screwed together, preferably with glued joints; one end is slotted so the tray can be withdrawn for cleaning. Use unfinished lumber not stained, painted or treated (most wood preservatives are poison–that’s how they work; by killing micro-organisms) especially for the tray, which the goats will lick when compartments are empty. If you insist on painting the frame, use latex or other lead-free paint. Paint is not really required. Goats will push and shove to get at the supplements, especially when you refill the tray, so be sure construction is strong–wood screws and glued joints are best. You can fill the compartments through the front.
The only drawback to the wood tray is that it becomes sodden and damp and yet can’t be washed out unless you use waterproof glue in the construction. In lieu of the tray you could substitute the inexpensive square or rectan-gular plastic food containers available at most supermarkets, modifying the feeder’s base size to accommodate those you found. If price is no object, you can have a fabricating shop make a tray with compartments for you out of stainless steel.
An absolute minimum supplementation program for all goats of any breed or type–including brush goats–is to offer free-choice:
(1) Loose salt–ordinary table salt, iodized, is fine. We use salt available in grocery stores. Best is mineral-rich sea salt, but it is usually much more expensive.
(2) Bicarbonate of soda–also available from your grocer.
(3) Kelp or seaweed meal, or a good complete mineral mix including all the trace minerals.
But the more milky the goat’s pedigree, the more it will benefit from a greater range of individual supplements from which it can select.
Goats require, in varying quantity according to age, breed, time of year, state of health, and individual differences:
(1) Iodine. Needed by the thyroid gland for the production of thyroxin, an hormone which controls the rate of body metabolism, iodine is often undersupplied in many parts of the world. Goiter–enlargement of the thyroid gland–is Nature’s way of trying to make enough thyroxin with an insufficiency of iodine in the feed. Stillbirths or weak kids, kids born hairless, and twins born with a live buck and a stillborn doe are symptoms of severe iodine deficiency. Some experienced breeders feel that iodine requirements in the high-producing dairy goat are greatly underestimated; breeding for high production is breeding for a larger and more active thyroid gland. Loose iodized salt is available from any grocer; obtain a package of organic iodine–EDDI (ethylenediamine dihydroiodide)–and mix 1 pound of it with 25 lbs. of iodized salt; offer free-choice.
(2) Calcium (Ca) and
(3) Phosphorus (P) are essential major nutrients required in considerable quantity. Calcium is required for bone and tooth formation, muscle contraction, blood coagulation, cell permeability, and the production of milk. Phosphorus is likewise required for bones and teeth; it is also involved in energy metabolism, and a host of other bodily and cellular functions. Calcium and Phosphorus act together, however, and it is difficult to discuss them individually. The goat requires an overall balance of calcium to phosphorus in the ratio of 1.25 or 1.5 to 1, and this is not easy to obtain–all foodstuffs have both minerals but in widely varying quantities and ratios. In very general terms, hays are calcium-rich, grains and food yeasts are high in phosphorus–but the ratio varies widely. Some alfalfa hays have Ca/P ratios as high as 17:1! Excesses of either must be avoided. Too much calcium causes stiffness, joint problems (nutritional arthritis) and an apathetic attitude. Excess P is the major cause of urinary calculi in bucks, usually caused by giving them the lower-quality low-calcium hays, along with feeding them much grain. MacKenzie calls calcium a “brake” and phosphorus an “accelerator.” An excess of P is unlikely in natural browse (it is in rather short supply in nature) but in an artificial diet (too many concentrates) it could be oversupplied and cause high-strung, fidgety goats that look well, eat well, then kid and die! Since we want to be certain that our goats can balance their Ca/P intake, we supply milking does with Monosodium Phosphate or Dicalcium Phosphate free-choice which gives them a chance to balance any hay/grain combination fed to them. A lack of either can cause rickets in young stock, osteomalacia (which literally means ‘bad bones’) in adults. Sufficient vitamin D is required for calcium assimilation; adequate vitamin D can allow ruminants to tolerate a wider Ca/P ratio. Excess magnesium decreases calcium absorption. Excess calcium reduces absorption and utilization of zinc. Over 70% of all the minerals in the goat body are Ca and P; 99% of the calcium is present in the bones and teeth. Other good sources of Ca & P are bone meal, deflourinated phosphate, and of course, milk.
(4) Iron (Fe) is part of hemoglobin, the compound that transports oxygen to all the cells. Iron-deficiency anemia is characterized by red blood cells that are smaller than normal.
(5) Copper (Cu) is required for the proper metabolism of iron, and is essential in enzyme systems, hair development and color, bone development, reproduction and lactation. Excess copper is toxic (levels above 250ppm) but deficiencies are indicated by fading hair coats, light hair growth, nervousness, lameness and swelling of the joints, and a type of anemia called ‘salt sick.’ In areas where molybdenum levels are high, extra Cu is required.
(6) Cobalt (Co) is involved in hemoglobin formation also, as well as being a component of vitamin B-12. The three (Fe, Cu, & Co) work together and in feed additives, supplements, and injections, all three are found. Anemia is common in goats that are carrying a burden of parasites. Goats have particularly high requirements for cobalt, which is essential for the synthesis of vitamin B-12. These three minerals build red blood cells, and are needed in greater quantities in the “kept” or domestic goat, who is more subject to intestinal parasites than his feral or wild relatives who keep on the move and never browse the same area twice. Kids have higher requirements for iron and copper also, as milk is a poor source of both and thus one often sees kids nibbling dirt, trying to get the iron & copper they need, which would normally be OK in the wild, but in domestication they are getting a load of parasites in the process! Iron is available in the form of iron oxide, ferric ammonium citrate, ferrous sulphate, ferrous fumerate, and in other forms; the best is ferric ammonium citrate which is well-absorbed. Iron oxide is very poorly absorbed. Since copper can be toxic, this is one reason for the importance of not adding flavorings to mix-tures that contain copper, possibly causing over consumption. Molasses, particularly blackstrap, is rich in iron; an excess supplies too much sugar, however, for it to be the sole iron source.
(7) Potassium (K) is another absolutely essential mineral that becomes of greater importance in goat diets as we increase the amount of grain fed, and/or increase the protein in the ration. Potassium influences carbohydrate metabolism, muscle activity, and various other functions and a deficiency may cause growth retardation, general muscle weakness, diarrhea, distended abdomen, emaciation and depraved appetite; eventually death, usually from heart failure, follows severe deprivation. Roughage usually contain ample potassium; vinegar in the drinking water is a good source of potassium; and potassium chloride is available–your grocer sells an (expensive) version of it called “lite salt”–but animal-feed-grade potassium is also available. It is put out free-choice as obtained. Apples are excellent sources and goats usually relish them; one might well re-word the old saying to “an apple a day keeps the veterinarian away.” Often you can obtain bags of small apples inexpensively; some grocery stores may even give you apples (and other fruits and vegetables) that are past their prime and being discarded. Protein pulls minerals, especially potassium, from the tissues, hence one of the dangers of high–protein diets.
(8) Salt–sodium chloride–(NaCl) is needed in great quantity by all ruminants and goats are no exception; everyone knows that–right? Maybe the amount they need is not so well understood, though, since people still put out salt blocks–a bit of incorrect goat folklore that dies hard. Iodized salt from the grocery store is as good as any; mixed half and half with ice cream salt, or pickling salt, it doesn’t cake quite as badly as the fine granules of table salt–but if you use ice cream salt, be sure to add EDDI for iodine. Excess salt is human diets is considered very unhealthful; but ruminants, being strict vegetarians, are different–remember that, while vitamins and minerals act the same in goats, other animals and people at the cellular level, there are some great differences in the requirements for these from species to species–for one thing, people are not biological vegetarians, (we are omnivores) and not bred to produce copious quantities of milk, eggs or hair! Sodium and Chlorine are the most important items that regulate the osmotic pressure and acid-base balance in bodily fluids. Thus they control the transfer of all nutrients to the cells, the removal of wastes, and the maintenance of water balance in the tissues. Salt deficiency can cause reduced growth, poor feed utilization, weight loss in adults, and reduced production. Salt toxicity is primarily caused by restriction of water intake.
(9) Sulfur (S) is a precursor of some amino acids (cystine and methionine), and is a component of biotin, thiamin and co-enzyme A; thus it is important in carbohydrate, energy and lipid metabolism. Increasingly, goat breeders are becoming aware of its beneficial effects in goat health. Sulfur licks are available from feed stores; these can be broken into small pieces with a hammer and put in a compartment of the mineral feeder–they are about 1% sulfur and 99% filler. Some of these are sufficiently soft so that they can be put out in lick form and the goats will obtain the little bit they need which is the one exception to the rule of “no blocks.” You can get pure powdered sulfur, which can be offered free-choice (in small amounts, so it won’t become unpalatable) from the drugstore.
(10) Selenium (Se) is much in the news lately. It acts in combination with vitamin E and in some cases each can “pitch-hit” for the other, but no one knows exactly what all its functions are. Selenium can be toxic; a tiny bit is essential but one must not overdose. Some trace mineral mixes contain selenium; also, food yeasts are rich in selenium in organic and readily assimilable form. We rarely give Bo-se injections nor recommend them for routine use except in particular circumstances–i.e. where white muscle disease and/or poor buck fertility has been a herd problem, or forages are known to be deficient. Recent studies have shown that Bo-se is poorly absorbed, and is gone from the system in 12-14 days–the kidneys work hard to excrete the excess following the injection, and the goat is not much better off. (However, Bo-se is traditionally given as an IM injection; we have always given them sub-Q for slower absorption – maybe these studies used them IM also.) Tiny amounts regularly in the feed and provision of trace minerals provide a continuous usable supply. High-protein rations tend to protect against selenium toxicity. Bucks in heavy service require extra selenium. 200-300mcg Se per goat, usually in trace mineral mixes at 20-30 ppm, is believed at present to supply adequate amounts. Some parts of the country contain high levels of Se in the soil, and thus grains and hays grown on such soils can cause toxicities–including blind staggers, sloughing of hooves, anemia, grinding of teeth, excess salivation, paralysis, blindness, and death.
(11) Magnesium (Mg) is essential for normal skeletal growth, and as an enzyme activator; it keeps calcium from being deposited in joints and soft tissues. “Grass staggers” or grass tetany is caused by a lack of magnesium; symptoms include nervousness and irritability, loss of appetite; eventually convulsions and death ensue. A complete goat trace mineral mix must contain magnesium. High-protein diets increase magnesium excretion and can cause deficiencies. Magnesium is the ‘red cell’ of plants and usually better supplied in ruminant diets than human foods; our brief discussion of it is not, however, intended to minimize its importance–it is a major essential mineral. A calcium/magnesium ratio of 2:1 to 1:1 in foods is considered normal.
(12)-(13)-and so on. More? Yes; periodically, studies are released showing the activity of and necessity for, other minerals, usually in very tiny amounts but nonetheless essential. These includeManganese, essential for bone formation, growth and reproduction;Zinc, needed for bone development, protein synthesis; and mobilizing vitamin A out of storage in the liver; Silicon, involved in the mineralization process; Molybdenum, which stimulates the action of rumen organisms; Chromium, which regulates the activity of the pancreas and glucose metabolism, Barium, Boron, Fluorine, Lithium, Tin, Vanadium, and many others, including many whose exact functions in human and animal nutrition are not yet fully understood. Most of these are available in sufficient quantities in natural browse and hay; and are not added to trace mineral mixes; in some cases excesses are the problem rather that shortages–selenium in some areas; molybdenum in others; fluorine in some water sources.Kelp Meal is relished by goats, and is a rich source of all the known trace minerals including the many whose needs and functions are not fully understood. It is high in calcium, and if offered, food yeasts should be fed to enhance absorption; especially if alfalfa hay is being fed also.
The important point is that all vitamins and minerals work together. Just as a complete house cannot be built with nails, shingles, and concrete blocks, so a whole goat cannot be made with only some of the nutrients supplied.
(14) Bicarbonate of Soda–not exactly a “trace mineral” but a necessary free-choice substance to keep in front of goats at all times. The goat’s rumen pH–the acidity–alkalinity balance–must be kept within narrow limits. Grain makes the rumen highly acid as do some illnesses, and the result is the dying-off of the rumen microflora, that digest and utilize the food eaten by the goat. This starts a vicious cycle–poor absorption of badly-needed nutrients, then even more depressed appetite, eventually leading to acidosis. Many finicky eaters and metabolic problems can be cured simply by offering a buffer such as bicarb. Your grocer has bicarbonate of soda (Arm and Hammer baking soda, for example) available.
In the mineral feeder or “cafeteria” we put the following:
(1) Loose salt, with EDDI added if rock salt is included,
(2) Bicarbonate of soda,
(3) A complete mineral mix, with extra potassium chloride if feeding high-protein grain to heavy milkers,
(4) Dicalcium phosphate or monosodium phosphate, straight or mixed half and half with loose salt,
(5) Kelp meal. Also, we vary the contents of this from time to time. After putting out new-cut alfalfa hay, we offer a live-cell yeast (Diamond V brand) to supply additional phosphorus and nourish the rumen microflora; which helps prevent bloat.
When first putting out the free-choice supplements, begin with only a small amount of each, to check on consumption and to prevent spoilage until the goats accept them. The tray compartments will hold a lot of minerals. Some of these, especially the loose salt, may “skin over” on top if you fill the compartment full, especially in humid weather, and the goats will be reduced to licking as if it was a block; small quantities added frequently will be consumed before this can happen. You can break this “skin” with a knife or screwdriver. Initially, some goats may refuse some of the minerals that are new to them; give them time–usually no more than a week is required until they become accustomed to the new “goodies.” It is fascinating to watch them at the feeder. Each one has a different set of preferences and requirements and they will move from item to item, back & forth. After the first week, if you have one or more that still consume extraordinary amounts of certain supplements, don’t be alarmed; this simply indicates how badly they may have been needing them. Most of the suggested supplements have salt in them, which acts as a limiter to consumption.
Part Two: The Vitamins
In this section we discuss the vitamins, which are dispensed to goats in a different manner from the minerals. In this article, as in any of the many books on nutrition, animal and human, vitamins are discussed individually. The specific functions each vitamin is known to have are pointed out, and often in books charts of food-stuffs are included with the vitamin and mineral content of each given. This may be helpful in determining what nutrient or nutrients might be useful in solving health problems, and correcting deficiencies. However it is important to keep in mind at all times that the actions of all vitamins and minerals in the body are synergistic–a four-dollar word meaning that they work best together. Suppose you have a job assembling lawn-mowers. One company supplies you with engines, another with wheels, a third with the metal frames, and a fourth supplies the cutting blades. One week you get 10 engines, 10 frames, 28 sets of wheels and 8 blades-obviously that week you can only build 8 lawnmowers, even though you have extra engines and frames and a big surplus of wheels. If you got 100 or 1,000 extra wheels, you still couldn’t build any more lawn-mowers until you got the rest of the parts. So it is with the vitamins and minerals–great excesses of some won’t compensate for a lack of others; all are essential to a healthy animal or person, whose every body cell is supplied constantly with all the nutrients it needs. The goatkeeper is not likely to see clear-cut single-nutrient deficiency symptoms in his or her herd. Some deficiency symptoms are even difficult to create experimentally in the laboratory. The literature is full of case histories that seem contradictory. Say, for example, a goat was diagnosed as having a vitamin-A deficiency, and subsequently given a high–potency injection of a commercial A/D preparation; yet no change or improvement was noted. Then later, given a much lower-potency oral dose, she makes a dramatic recovery. What does this mean? That particular goat may not have been able to utilize the injected form of the vitamin–or possibly the batch was outdated or spoiled–or her assimilation efficiency from the gut was very high–or the injected dose was in fact working over a period of time, but the oral dose got the credit! Not easy, this type of research!
The vitamins are more “fragile” than the minerals–more subject to denaturing by the effects of light, heat and exposure to air, long storage, etc. The vitamin content of plants varies day to day, season to season; at some growth stages, plants are very high in some vitamins while at other times their content of the same vitamins may be negligible. The making of hay is a delicate (and chancy) operation if nutrients are to be preserved; bale too soon and it will mold; too late and the sun will destroy vitamin A, some B vitamins, and C. Seasonal changes, soil type and use of fertilizers have their effects on the nutrient contents of plants. Thus it is no more “un-natural” to heavily supplement your goats with vitamins and minerals than it is to breed high-producing dairy goats in the first place!
Vitamins are divided into water-soluble and fat-soluble types; we’ll deal with the fat-soluble ones first.
(1) Vitamin A (retinol) is a colorless fat-soluble substance (actually a long-chain alcohol) with many functions in the body. Perhaps its main one is the maintenance of the health of the epithelial tissues-the respiratory, urogenital and digestive tracts, and skin. It is needed for bone growth and night vision. Vitamin A is an animal product–plants manufacture precursors known as carotenes or provitamin A, which the body transforms into vitamin A. This transformation is not 100% efficient; less than 35% of the carotene is changed to vitamin A in healthy animals and Man. (You hear a lot about carotenes in human nutrition in the media now, as studies have shown that there is a link between carotene consumption and cancer prevention.) There are several forms of carotene, but the form with the highest vitamin-A activity is beta-carotene. Synthetic forms of vitamin A are acetate and palmitate which are usually supplied in injectable vitamin A preparations. Most of us are familiar with cod liver oil as the major A supplement form for humans, but being an animal product, it must not be given to goats!
Vitamin A is extremely heat-sensitive, and is destroyed by oxidation. Good sources of carotene are green, leafy hays not over a year old, lush green pastures & browse, green and yellow peas and corn, whole milk, and best of all, carrots, from which the name comes. Deficiencies can cause night blindness, reproductive failure, stunted growth, loss of weight and appetite, sterility, and loss of defenses against diseases that gain admission by the epithelial tissues. Vitamin A can be stored in the body, but young kids have little storage capacity; when disease strikes, stored A is rapidly depleted.
Vitamin A is one of the very few that can cause problems if given in excess, yet the amount required by goats is not clear, and is subject to change on a day-by-day basis. Carotene excess is no problem; goats convert the needed amount to A and excrete the rest, so since several thousand units of A are believed to be needed daily, and growing kids, high-producing does and sick goats require greater amounts, we prefer to supplement with carotene rather than synthetic/injectable forms. Again, you can often obtain discarded carrots and carrot tops from grocers.
Vitamin A’s infection-fighting ability makes it very valuable to use for any goat disease. It will not interfere with the action of any medication, and is valuable as supportive therapy; while you’re waiting for the vet to arrive, you can give an injection of A (250,000 units for a young kid up to 1,000,000 units for a large doe or buck). Since A is stored, one repeats these injections no more frequently than once every 7-8 days, or as the vet instructs.
(2) Vitamin D ergocalciferol (D2) or choleocalciferol (D3) has been called the “sunshine” vitamin for years, and animals that spend much of their time outdoors will get most of the D they need from the action of sunlight on their skin. D is essential in the assimilation and utilization of calcium and phosphorus; it is necessary in bone development, normal blood–clotting and heart action. Less D is required when Ca and P are in balance in the diet. D deficiencies cause rickets in young animals and osteomalacia (literally “bad bones”) in mature ones. Synthetic D is routinely (and unwisely) added, by law, to milk for human consumption (400 i.u. per quart). Excess doses of D can produce problems–deposition of calcium in joints and soft tissues, the cardiovascular and urinary systems. Sun-cured hays and irradiated yeasts are good sources of D; plants contain the precursor of D2. Injectable forms of A with D are available; the D is beneficial to goats in lactation that have high requirements for Ca and P and thus for D to aid in Ca/P utilization. Goats kept indoors in confinement require a little supplemental D. But injectable A and D should never be given more than once every month for prophylaxis – the problem being that to date it has been impossible to find an injectable source of A alone without the D included, and who wants a goat with solidified lungs from too much D? (This would take a great excess of D given over a long period of time.)
(3) Vitamin E (tocopherol) has come under the spotlight in recent years due to its effects on reproduction and prevention of heart disease. It acts as an anti-oxidant, thus small amounts are often added to feed mixes to prevent spoilage; as a preventer of the formation of scar tissue, and in animals, aids in vitamin C synthesis. It is involved in some amino-acid metabolism, and acts in combination with selenium to protect cells from the detrimental effects of peroxidation. (Confused? Well-maybe this will help; E and selenium each take a different approach to the peroxidation problem; E will correct some aspects that selenium won’t, and vice versa, so both are needed, and as with all nutrients, they work best together.) Most of us have heard of white muscle disease and many of us give Bo-Se injections to prevent this, and assure proper muscle development in kids; A.I. technicians saturate bucks with selenium and vitamin E prior to collecting semen; selenium is necessary for the formation of semen.
There are 5 different tocopherols, but the alpha form is the one most active in the body, and that dose potency is measured from. How much is required is a subject of debate. People interested in nutrition take hundreds, even thousands of units daily, to promote scar-free healing of injuries, protect the heart muscle, and in the hope of improving libido, (which E does not help, but zinc does; though E does affect reproduction.) In goats, some mastitis organisms change normal milk-secreting tissue to scar tissue; there have been a few reported experiences of the reversal or mitigation of this by massive doses of vitamin E. Since E reduces the need of the cells for oxygen, in these days of air pollution, extra E would benefit man and animals alike. Excess doses are non-toxic.
E is supplied in the plant germ and germ oils, wheat especially; in sun-cured hays and green plants. We give extra E to any goat that shows a positive reaction to the CMT test, and we have given 1,000 i.u. twice daily to does with mastitis or off-flavored milk. Since goats don’t like powdery feeds, we administer large dosages by piercing the capsules of E available at health-food stores and squeezing the contents into the goat’s mouth or on their grain. E has a tendency to raise blood pressure in animals not used to it, so initial intake should be small, (not over 1,000 i.u.) and doses increased over a period of time. Vitamin E has been used quite successfully to clear up off- flavored milk; the treatment is to give 1,000 iu once a day for the first couple of days, then increase the dose to 2,000; usually by the end of the second or third day the milk will clear up. Give at this level for a week, then withdraw; if the problem returns, administer E again. We have heard of E being infused into the udder of a goat with mastitis; we’ve not tried this, but obviously it would have to be done after the mastitis had been treated and the causative organism killed; E might prove to be a wonderful food for the mastitis pathogen! Such would be risky even then but if someone has an old doe with an udder full of scar tissue from past bouts of mastitis and wants to try experimenting, infuse 2,000 or more i.u. daily after milking and let us know what happens! If the scar tissue has not been present for years, it should eventually dissolve under the E treatment. A better way to accom-plish this would be to mix vitamin E with 80% DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) and apply topically to the udder every four hours for a few days. In all such cases, E should be also supplied by injection or orally. E oils are excellent to apply to burns, to abraded, chapped or roughened skin, and to cuts or suture sites after they have begun to heal, to prevent scar tissue formation.
(4) Vitamin K (menadione, or K3) is a heat-stable, light-sensitive vitamin that is essential for its involvement in the clotting of blood. Lack causes hemorrhages, prolonged clotting time, even death in severe cases. However, it is synthesized in the digestive tract of animals and Man, and is rarely added to animal feeds, in small quantities only. It need not concern goatkeepers; it is present in pastures and hays, and it should not be taken except on the advice of a veterinarian, who might use it in treating an animal that had ingested the rat poison Wafarin (which kills by causing internal hemorrhages) or for animals that had prolonged oral antibiotic therapy, which alters the rumen microflora and causes losses of vitamin K; or prior to (or after) surgery.
The fat-soluble vitamins are capable of being stored by the goat’s body and these stores drawn upon for use as needed. But the water-soluble vitamins are not stored, and are required in the diet every day, if health, even life itself, is to be maintained. To some degree, these vitamins are synthesized in the digestive system of the goat; provided the precursors are available in the diet for them to be synthesized from; however this mechanism is easily upset by such things as stress, moldy feed, the invasion of disease-causing bacteria, etc. and recovery from illness is considerably sped up by inclusion of extra vitamins and minerals in the diet of the ailing goat. More importantly, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it is better to be certain that sufficient vitamins and minerals are present in the diet of the healthy goat, as a fortress against disease. Nutritional supplementation is good insurance; the well-fed doe is better prepared to withstand extra stresses, heavy lactation, pregnancy and kidding; the buck, the demands of heavy service. It is always better to prevent than to treat!
The water-soluble vitamins are primarily the B-complex family and C. These vitamins work closely together and rarely is it necessary or desirable to increase feeding or injecting one member of the B family over the others.
(1) Vitamin B-1 or Thiamin is the compound that was discovered to prevent beriberi in people and polyneuritis in birds, in 1927. Its effect on the central nervous system has resulted in it being called the “morale vitamin”. It is necessary for the breakdown of carbohydrates, for growth, muscle tone, digestion and assimilation of food and stabilization of appetite. Thiamin deficiencies can cause fatigue, loss of appetite, labored breathing, gastric distress including cramps, indigestion and constipation, and depressed growth. B-1 is water-soluble, thus absorption is rapid and efficient in the large and small intestines. It is very sensitive to heat and air. Good sources of thiamin are wheat germ and middlings, bran, corn germ, linseed meal, soybean meal and especially the food yeasts.
Thiamin injections are on occasion given to treat specific conditions, such as to aid in repair or prevention of polioencephelomalacia, nerve damage caused by fulminating diseases, or the consumption of moldy hay or grain. However, large doses (over 50 mg) of thiamin hydrochloride–the usual injectable form–should be administered slowly, as anaphylactic shock reactions, though rare, have been reported; check the potencies of the thiamin content of any B-complex injectable you plan to give. Orally, thiamin is non-toxic; any excess amount would simply be excreted; but oral pure thiamine is degraded by rumen bacteria and may not be absorbed – this is believed to be true of all the vitamins of the B-complex.
(2) Vitamin B-2 or Riboflavin is involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and the production of energy. It is necessary for cell respiration and maintenance of good vision, skin and hair. While Riboflavin is heat-stable, it is readily destroyed by light and alkalinity. Deficiencies are non-specific; lack of it can cause re-tarded growth rates, poor feed conversion, lesions of the mouth and tongue, dermatitis, and poor hair coat. Good sources are dairy products–milk, whey, buttermilk–and alfalfa hay, peanut meal, leafy forages, and food yeasts.
(3) Vitamin B-3 or Niacin is the anti-pellagra vitamin, present in the healthy body in larger quantities than any other vitamin. Niacin is the most stable of the B-vitamins, and consequently amounts remain in foodstuffs, largely unaffected by light, heat, air, etc. It is vital to the nervous system, the synthesis of sex hormones, the formation and maintenance of skin, tongue and digestive tissues. Poor circulation is often a niacin deficiency; likewise diar-rhea, mouth lesions and enlarged hocks. There are three synthetic forms: niacinamide, nicotinic acid and nico-tinamide, which function as well as niacin in most of the body’s uses of niacin, though not all. Niacin is found in sunflower seeds, wheat bran, rice bran and polishings, and yeasts (the best sources) though forages and other grains have a moderate amount. (Meat, especially organ meats, are excellent sources for humans.)
(4) Vitamin B-6 or Pyridoxine plays a number of important roles in the body–the breakdown and utilization of feeds, nervous-system maintenance, the production of red blood cells and antibodies, the release of glycogen from the liver for energy, the balance of sodium and potassium, and the synthesis of RNA and DNA. Pyridoxine is sensitive to light, though stable to heat. The need for B-6 increases during pregnancy, lactation, and old age. B-6 is well-supplied by soybean meal, sunflower seeds, wheat and yeast; alfalfa is a moderate source, as are other grains. Molasses, included in most dairy feeds, is a good source.
(5) Vitamin B-12 or Cyanocobalamin is one B-vitamin that goatkeepers eventually hear about, as the “appetite-stimulating” vitamin; injections of B-12 are given to get goats back on feed. It is the only vitamin that is linked to minerals; cobalt must be present in the goat diet in order for B-12 to be synthesized. B-12 is a fragile vitamin, sensitive to light, heat, acids and alkalis; and virtually the only good sources in feeds for goats are the yeasts and alfalfa; most plants don’t contain any appreciable amounts–meats are the best human sources, but for goats, synthesis in the intestines is the normal source. Only very small amounts are required and the dosages for animals and humans are measured in micrograms.
(6) Biotin, once called vitamin H, like thiamin contains the element sulfur. Light and heat don’t seriously affect Biotin, but strong acids and alkalis can destroy it. No deficiency symptoms are unique to Biotin, although as with other B-complex vitamins, deficiencies will cause loss of hair, dermatitis, depressed growth. Biotin is synthesized in the goat’s intestines; however, prolonged use of sulfa drugs can kill the organisms responsible for the synthesis. Good sources of Biotin are alfalfa, barley, linseed meal, milo, peanuts, rice, soybeans and wheat, and molasses and the food yeasts are excellent sources.
(7) Choline is utilized in much larger quantities than the rest of the B vitamins; and the body can synthesize considerable amounts–there has been some argument as to whether Choline should really be classed as a vitamin since it serves more structurally than catalytically as vitamins do. Choline is involved with fat metabolism and transport and nerve transmission, and thus in turn, muscle contraction and heartbeat. Lack of sufficient Choline will cause growth retardation, fatty liver, reproductive failure, kidney hemorrhage, and even death if deficiencies are severe. In practice this rarely occurs since some is synthesized in the body and most common feeds contain Choline, but assuring ample supply in feeds is good insurance. Excellent sources are alfalfa, barley, cottonseed meal, hominy, linseed meal, oats, peanut meal, rice bran, sesame meal, soybean meal, sunflower seeds, and yeasts; good sources include beet and citrus pulps, corn, millet, sorghum and wheat.
(8) Folic Acid once was known as B10 and B11. It is required for the synthesis of purines, thus a lack will result in abnormal maturing of blood cells, creating a type of anemia. Generally it is abundant in nature; excellent sources are wheat, yeast, the oil meals; good sources include corn and oats, rice, rye, buckwheat and beets. Aged goats require greater amounts.
(9) Inositol is another compound which is controversial as to its classification as a vitamin. Many of its functions are not completely understood yet; actual deficiencies resemble those of B-6, though these are usually seen only in the laboratory, as inositol is also present is adequate amounts in most animal feeds. Goats grazing coffee beans in tropical countries have developed inositol deficiencies since caffeine is antagonistic to inositol.
(10) Pantothenic Acid once called vitamin B-3, is known to vitamin-takers as the “anti-stress” vitamin. The name means “acid found everywhere” and it is well-supplied in most feeds. It is rarely found in free form in nature as it is highly susceptible to destruction by heat, acids and alkalis. It is known to be involved with Coenzyme A in feed metabolism; laboratory animals fed large amounts of pantothenic acid survived such tests as swimming in cold water much longer than those that didn’t receive the extra. Most feeds contain good, if not excellent, amounts (yeast is a rich source) and commercial salts are available. Pantothenic acid will increase life span (in all mam-mals, including humans) in part by its aid at preventing the effects of stress, including adrenal exhaustion.
(11) PABA or Para-Aminobenzoic acid affects growth and the synthesis of other vitamins and nutrients. It is produced by synthesis in the healthy animals’ intestines and the AMA has problems with it, since it is very similar in structure to some of the sulfa drugs; it can counteract the depression of synthesis that these drugs can cause but it can interfere with their action also, and various attempts have been made (fortunately not successfully) to have it available on prescription only. The rule of thumb for people as well as animals is that supplementary PABA should not be given until after the prescribed treatment with sulfa drugs – which are now not often used – has been completed. There is evidence that it may increase the effectiveness of insulin and penicillin.
Other vitamins that have been attributed to the B-complex are periodically identified, and work still continues in this area. We hear about the Russians’ work with B-15; our scientists disagree about the identification and effectiveness of this vitamin. In human nutrition doctors still prescribe liver for certain conditions for there are many factors in liver that may eventually be isolated and identified as B vitamins with a proven effectiveness–taking all the known B vitamins often doesn’t produce the results that taking them with liver does. Likewise, animals still receive injections of liver extract for various disorders including anemia.
We inject the commercial “B Complex” for anemia from severe parasitism, animals off feed, etc. In our experi-ence a mixture of injectable B-complex and liver/iron/B-12 has worked better than B-complex or B-12 alone, however B-12 has been put on prescription and is no longer easy to get. The action of the B vitamins is synergistic; injecting individual B-vitamins is best left to the advice of a veterinarian as specific B deficiencies are very hard to identify even in the lab. If a given potency of B-12 will stimulate appetite, that same potency mixed with the other B vitamins known and unknown (via. liver) will certainly do better and may help the goat considerably. The trembling and paralysis caused by thiamine antagonists in moldy feed call for thiamine injections; we repeat–inject slowly in potencies over 50 mg. A high-potency B-complex like Methaplex (PRN Pharmacal Inc.) contains 150 mg. of thiamin hydrochloride as well as 100 mcg of B-12 and other B-vitamins per ml. 1/2 to 1 ml. of should be effective in one injection site and less traumatic to the goat than injecting several cc of a low-potency vitamin in more than one injection site; on the other hand we prefer larger doses of the B-complex preparations based on 10 mg/cc of thiamine, injected in one site sub-Q; assimilation is slower but better.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid–the politically controversial vitamin if there ever was one! Many volumes have been written about vitamin C. The medical profession is sharply divided about its effectiveness; the late Dr. Fred Klenner on one hand has rescued humans on the verge of death with massive doses injected IV and some veterinarians have had the same results with animals–and on the other hand, clinical tests have been run on groups of volunteers to see if it prevented the common cold, with not very spectacular results–though the latter depends on how you interpret the data, and how much C was given. Millions of people take it, for it is widely known that Man, monkeys, certain bats and fish and the guinea pig do not synthesize it in their own systems, but all other creatures, including goats, do. It is essential to life–it is involved in the formation of collagen, the “cement” that binds cells together, and a structural part of bones, teeth, connective tissue. It is an important mechanism of wound repair. It combines with toxic substances and detoxifies them; i.e. poisons, and toxins produced by disease. It is known that the requirements increase in times of stress, and two–time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling created a furor in medical circles when he published his bookVitamin C and the Common Cold which suggested a human intake of up to 10,000 mg.per day, this based in part on studies that showed that animals that synthesize their own C pro-duce great quantities of it, especially when stressed such as during the onset of disease. No conclusive evidence has been reported that refutes his claims.
We have personally been involved with the successful rescue of very sick and dying goats and kids with massive doses of C, both by injection and orally. C is very effective in combating the mysterious “udder edema” or hard udder that plagues many goatkeepers. The cause/s are not definitely known. Various theories have been put forth and later exploded- hard udder has been blamed on feeding alfalfa hay before kidding (proven not to be the cause), on CAE virus (maybe, but some CAE-negative goats have developed udder edema,) on Mycoplasma, (also maybe, but other clinical signs have not appeared) on insufficient potassium and vitamin A in the diet of the pregnant doe, and a variety of other things. Where Lasix has failed, the administering of 10 grams of C (10,000 mg) dissolved in an ounce or two of water and given as a drench, once daily for ten days, has proved to be effective more often than not. 10 grams of C is a large oral dose, and some pasty feces during treatment have been recorded but these do not unduly bother the doe and subside after the first day or two of the therapy. We never experienced them in our herd. Most edema cases begin to respond after a couple days of the C therapy. Excess salt has been blamed as one cause of edema. Since sodium causes water retention in the tissues, this makes sense at first look. Vitamin C is available commercially in several forms, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, calcium, potassium and magnesium ascorbates, which are taken by people that are adversely affected by the acid form. In goats, the ascorbic acid alone is more effective than the other forms, and sodium ascorbate has failed in our own trials–possibly excess sodium is a factor in udder edema. We continue to give and to recommend the ascorbic acid form of C as a therapy for udder edema. Injecting vitamin C for edema is not recommended; trials have shown that 3 grams injected IM or sub-q caused great distress, sent the goats off feed and did not effect the edema. Since C is destroyed by light, heat and alkaline compounds, one should dissolve the C powders in warm water; preferably not over 110° F. The therapy works best if they get the full dose at one time; not in divided doses.
The injectable forms of C are available in potencies of 250 mg/cc. They are painful injections; they burn at the injection site. To get a high level of C into a goat suffering from poison one might inject 4cc (1 gram) plus giving a drench, but the veterinarian would doubtless prefer to give a larger dose IV, something most goatkeepers cannot do. If one is trying to expel poisons, the scouring effect of C is cleansing and unlike bacterial scours, should not continue indefinitely. Always make sure that plenty of fresh, clean water is available to goats on C therapy. Such big doses put a load on the kidneys. Any amount of C appears to be safe given IV – 150-gram doses have been given at one time by clinicians for acute toxicity.
C deficiency is not to be taken lightly, just because ruminants do synthesize their own; scurvy is the deficiency disease and bones become weak, teeth loosen and fall out, anemia may occur, capillaries become fragile and break; death will eventually ensue. Yet since animals do synthesize their own C, books on animal nutrition fail to consider it an essential ingredient in feeds, and few commercial feed mixes contain any C, except those made for guinea pigs. The goat that is sick may be unable to synthesize the C it needs. We routinely add some C to their drinking water year around, at 1 to 2 grams per 2-1/2 gallons of water. In these days of possibly contaminated feeds and hay that may contain pesticide residues and/or other chemicals, extra C will help detoxify these toxins. C is also involved with the metabolism of some of the amino acids and iron. C is not stored in the body, and any added to drinking water is inactivated after 24 hours; after which it should be discarded and replaced with fresh water. (Water is an essential nutrient too–and the quantity and quality shouldn’t be taken for granted.)
Some Feeding Suggestions
As a rule of thumb, minerals are fed free-choice, andvitamins in or on the goats’ concentrate rations. Excesses of minerals can throw a tremendous strain on the kidneys, and some are toxic in excess (selenium, copper and others) and giving minerals in a free-choice feeder as described in the first part of this series is making use of the goats’ inbuilt ability to consume the minerals they need. Small amounts of the major and trace minerals are included in many feed formulations to assure that goats will get some; they will select for their additional needs if given the chance.
The law of free-market economics dictates that the larger the market, the more manufacturers will step in to meet demands. Look through any animal-supply catalogue or at the stock of any feed store; 99% of the listed products are for cattle, sheep, swine, horses, dogs and cats. The variety of special vitamin and mineral supplements made for pets and horses is bewildering and borders on the absurd–but the demand is there! Few companies have come to the aid of the goat; hence goatkeepers must search through products made for animals and humans, carefully reading labels, to find suitable feeds and supplements. Though the labels may not say “goats” specifically, there are many products in feed stores that goatkeepers can use. At Pine Cone Valley we have tested many of these over the years, and will give some suggestions here for supplemental feeds for improving goat health and production.
(1) Beet Pulp, dried, is sometimes found in feed stores. It is high in iron and calcium as well as other minerals, and is useful as an appetite stimulant for picky goats and does off feed. Do not feed to bucks during breeding season, as it may cause temporary sterility. It is a very useful, very inexpensive feed additive that will usually cause does to clean up their grain ration. It will definitely help reduce scours. It will ‘bulk’ feeds and help satisfy the appetites of those goats that never seem to get enough, yet get fat. A mixture of beet pulp with a little live cell yeast is a sovereign recovery diet for goats that are scouring.
(2) Kelp Meal (Innovators) is made of dried seaweed, and goats love it! We feed it free-choice in our cafeteria-style mineral feeder, and it is the first to disappear. Kelp meal supplies the greatest variety of trace minerals of any product, including many that are known to have a function in animal nutrition, but the specific function is not clearly understood. Here is a complete analysis of the product–the kelp plant most used is Ascophyllumnodosum, also known as Norwegian kelp, or common wrack. Kelp meal is high in calcium; if you feed it, along with beet pulp and alfalfa hay, which are also high in calcium, you must have good sources of phosphorus available for the goats–yeasts, monosodium and dicalcium phosphates. All figures are given in percent, or parts per million (ppm):
Ag Silver .000004 Mg Magnesium .75
Al Aluminum 20 ppm Mn Manganese 10-50 ppm
Au Gold less than 1 ppm N Nitrogen 1.467
B Boron 80-100 ppm Na Sodium 2.4-4.0
Ba Barium 15-50 ppm Ni Nickel 1-5 ppm
Be Beryillum less than 1 ppm Os Osmium less than 1 ppm
Bi Bismuth less than 1 ppm P Phosphorus .2
Br Bromine less than 1 ppm Pb Lead less than 1 ppm
Ca Calcium 1.0 Pd Palladium less than 1 ppm
Cb Niobium less than 1 ppm Pl Platinum less than 1 ppm
Cd Cadmium less than 1 ppm Rb Rubidum .000005
Ce Cerium less than 1 ppm Rh Rhodium less than 1 ppm
Cl Chlorine 2.0 S Sulfur 2.2
Co Cobalt 1-10 ppm Se Selenium 3-4 ppm
Cr Chromium 1 ppm Sb Antimony .000142
Cs Cesium less than 1 ppm Sl Silicon .1642
Cu Copper 4-10 ppm Sn Tin 10 ppm
F Fluorine .03265 Sr Strontium 100 ppm
Fe Iron .015-.10 Te Tellurium less than 1 ppm
Ga Gallium less than 1 ppm Th Thorium less than 1 ppm
Ge Germanium .000005 Ti Titanium 3-6 ppm
Hg Mercury less than .1 ppm Tl Thallium .000293
I Iodine .05 U Uranium less than 1 ppm
Id Indium less than 1 ppm V Vanadium 3 ppm
Ir Iridium less than 1 ppm W Tungsten .000033
K Potassium 2.0-3.0 Zn Zinc 35-100 ppm
La Lanthanum .000019 Zr Zirconium less than 1 ppm
Li Lithium .000007
Vitamin C 100-2000 ppm
Carotene 30-60 ppm
Biotin, folic acid, niacin, folinic acid, riboflavin, thiamin (10-30 mg/kg.) B-12 and vitamin K
Components: Protein 5.7% Fat 2.6% Fiber 7%
Nitrogen-free extract matter 58.6% Ash 10.7%
Carbohydrates: Mannitol 5% Alginic Acid 25%
Lethylpentosans 7% Laminarin 2-5%
Undefined sugars 14.4%
Vitamins: A, B-1, B-2, B-12, C, D, E, K, Riboflavin, Niacin, Choline, Carotene, Pantothene.
This is a complete analysis included for its interest value as well as information. Don’t be dismayed at the readings of such things as gold, silver, uranium, and lead–if you had access to complete analyses of the grains and hays you feed (to say nothing of the foods you eat!) you’d find levels of these also, much higher! Researchers continue to study the functions of micro and macro-nutrients in nutrition and there is a need, tiny though it be, for minerals such as chromium, silicon, tin, lithium, even aluminum. As work continues, these needs will eventually be uncovered. Meanwhile, your goats know a good thing when they sniff it–give them kelp meal!
(3) Sea Salt undoubtedly the highest-quality mineral-rich natural sea salt available today is harvested in France and sold in this country as Celtic sea salt only by an organization known as the Grain and Salt Society. Few people understand that the salt sold for human consumption and added to nearly all foods is not a natural product at all, but rather, an industrial man-made mineral, sodium chloride, 95% of which is manufactured for industrial use rather than in food. It occurs nowhere in nature in this ‘pure’ form; in all natural salts including ocean water, sodium and chloride are but two of nearly a hundred trace minerals, which is what man and animals have evolved to consume. The elimination of all the trace minerals – called ‘impurities’ by the salt companies, and done by distillation – is now thought to be responsible for the disease problems now linked to high salt consumption in man.
Celtic sea salt’s analysis shows how complex a material true natural salt really is:
Chloride 58% Magnesium 0.09% Potassium 0.029%
Sodium 36% Calcium 0.04% Manganese 0.026%
Sulfur 0.56% Iron 0.039% Copper 0.018%
Zinc 0.15% Silicon 0.011% Carbon: 0.0034%
plus all of the following micro elements (nutrients):
Strontium: 0.0009% Boron: 0.0008% Hydrogen: 0.0003% fluorine: 0.0004%
Nitrogen 0.0001% Argon: 0.00005% Lithium: 0.00002% Rubidium: 0.000014% Phosphorus: 0.0000112% Iodine: 0.000007% Barium: 0.000002% Molybdenum: 0.0000012% Nickel: 0.0000008% Arsenic: 0.00000037% Uranium: 0.00000038% Manganese: 0.00000024% Vanadium: 0.00000024% Tin: 0.00000009% Cobalt: 0.000000045% Antimony: 0.000000035% Silver: 0.000000032% Krypton: 0.000000024% Chromium: 0.00000002% Mercury: 0.0000002%
Neon: 0.000000012% Cadmium: 0.0000000112% Selenium: 0.00000001% Germanium: 0.800000007% Xenon: 0.000000006% Scandium: 0.00000005% Gallium: 0.000000035% Zirconium: 0.00000003% Lead: 0.0000000026% Bismuth: 0.0000000024% Niobium: 0.0000000023% Thalium: 0.0000000022% Gold: 0.0000000019% Pico-traces of: Helium, lanthanum, neodymium, thorium, cerium, cesium, terbium, yttrium, erbium, ytterbium, hafnium, gadolinium, prasodymium, beryllium, samarium, holmium, lutetium, tantalum, thulium, europium, tungsten, protactinium and radium.
Sodium and chloride are the main elements in sea salt, at 94%; but that remaining 6% is vitally important in nutrition. We know less about the role of each of the trace minerals than we do about the known vitamins. Many of the trace minerals are needed in only very minuscule amounts but necessary in those amounts.
Because the Grain and Salt Society exists to provide nutritional and health information, and sea salt is an important element of their product line, by law they cannot sell their imported Celtic sea salt with the nutritional claims, except privately to members of their society. Membership is quite inexpensive; the Celtic sea salt is expensive. It is available in four degrees of fineness and purity, including one for animals, their ‘natural bath and animal’ salt, at $4.00/pound, $18 for 5 pounds or $71 for 22 pounds, as of their last 1996 price list. Ideally, one would feed this salt free choice, and rarely have to worry about other mineral supplements except soda and a bit of sea kelp.
(3) Colloid Minerals you may be asking if there are not other ways to give your goats the range of minerals they need; yes, there are, but they are not necessarily less expensive than sea salt. Health food stores carry several concentrated colloidal mineral products which can be added to the drinking water. Best known and least expensive of these is a product called Body Booster which is the product of plant based humic shale with all the known trace minerals in a proper balance; it is much lower in sodium and chloride since it is from the breakdown of ancient plants rather than sea water. A couple of tablespoons of this colloidal mineral suspension in the drinking water is another superb way to get minerals into your goats; combined with free-choice kelp and Celtic sea salt, your goats should experience few if any metabolic problems, and live long and productive lives.
(4) Vitamin C is available from health food stores in all forms, sodium ascorbate, the mineral ascorbates, and ascorbic acid. We suggest that it be kept on hand for the treatment of udder edema or hard udder, and poisoning. Goats will lick all forms out of a free-choice feeder, but this is probably not a good way to supply it as it is likely to be denatured left exposed to light and air. By the way–how much C do you get a day? Everyone’s need and tolerance level differs; the writer routinely takes 12 grams–that’s 12,000 milligrams–every day; often more; and has for nearly 30 years. If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, you need more C!
(5) Vitamin E is provided in most feeds but in only token amounts. Feed extra E to does and bucks, starting a few weeks before breeding, to does that have or have had mastitis, and to goats with any problems that involve scar tissue such as pneumonia, lungworm, burns & scrapes, etc. E is non-toxic; up to 5,000iu. have been given to old animals, following surgery, and suffering from pneumonia and lungworm. E is thought to protect the heart and to increase life span; the only reason it is not provided in feeds in greater quantity is that it is the most expensive of the supplements. Best sources are your health food stores. There are four types; three synthetic and one natural; the latter, d-alpha-tocopherol, is preferred. Dl-alpha-tocopherol, tocopheryl, and tocopherol acetate are the synthetic forms. Unesterified D-alpha-tocopherol with other mixed tocopherols, potency based on the alpha com-ponent, are the best. Buy these as capsules of liquid, pierce the capsule with a needle and squirt the contents into the goat’s mouth, or put it on their feed; for kids you can squirt some on your finger and let them suck on it.
(6) Yeasts. The food yeasts are so rich in vitamins and minerals, so inexpensive, and so generally beneficial that it is a wonder that they are not more liberally provided. Diamond V mills sell their yeast pretty much nationwide as a cattle feed supplement, in 50-lb. bags, very inexpensively.
Diamond V is a high-protein feed (14% crude protein with 2.5% crude fat and 8% crude fiber) made up of yeast grown and dormatized on yellow corn meal, soybean meal, corn by-products, cane molasses, wheat middlings, wheat bran, wheat germ, and rye middlings. You may have noted in reading the B-vitamin descriptions that time and time again, yeast is referred to as the best source. Diamond V yeast culture contains enzymes that help digest carbohydrates, assist in the splitting of feed proteins, reduces fiber to simpler carbohydrate and assists with the changing of fats and oils in feeds to more digestible compounds. It slows digestion so that the food eaten is available for a longer period of time. It will raise butterfat levels, and one of its most valuable assets is the prevention of bloat–it’s complement of lactic ferments and enzymes get the rumen ‘cooking’ at peak efficiency.
The analysis per pound:
Vitamin A 380 USP units Calcium .187%
Vitamin E 90 i.u. Phosphorus .620%
Vitamin B-1 13.2 mg. Potassium .950%
Vitamin B-2 11.2 mg. Sodium .444%
Niacin 75.3 mg. Magnesium .254%
Pantothenic Acid 22.6 mg. Sulfur .237%
Vitamin B-6 5.0 mg. Chlorine .084%
Choline 2,480.0 mg. Iron 53 mg/lb.
Folic acid 685.0 mcg. Zinc 17 mg/lb.
Biotin 62.0 mcg. Manganese 14 mg/lb.
Vitamin B-12 .48 mcg. Copper 8.9 mg/lb.
Selenium .14 mg/lb. Cobalt .14 mg/lb.
Diamond V can be fed free-choice, but best is to mix it in the feed; it increases the palatability of concentrate rations and goats will often eat yeasts when they won’t eat otherwise. We consider it an essential feed for goats; its high phosphorus level helps balance calcium-rich alfalfa, beet pulp and kelp meal. 1 or more ounces per feeding is suggested.
Brewer’s Yeast on the other hand lacks the live cells. It is even higher in potency of vitamins and minerals, and is 40% protein; but it must be fed with caution as like any high-protein feed, it can bloat animals! It should never be fed free-choice; but we add 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. on top of each concentrate feeding along with the Diamond V; goats love them both. Brewer’s yeast is available in health food stores.
The Free-Choice Mineral Feeder
A Front boards 8 required 3/4″ x 4-1/4″ x 18″ G partitions 11 required 3/4″ x 3″ x 6″
B cleats 4 required 3/4″ x 2″ x 48″ H tray bottom 1 required 3/4″ x 7-1/2″ x 48″
C bottom board 1 required 3/4″ x 9″ x 48″ J end boards 2 required 3/4″ x 10-1/2 x 24″
D back boards 3 required 3/4″ x 4″ x 24″ K footrest ends 2 required 3/4″ x 6″ x 12″
E top board 2 required 3/4″ x 6-1/2″ x 48″ L footrest board 1 required 3/4″ x 6 x 49-1/2″
F tray sides 2 required 3/4″ x 3″ x 48″
Note: in constructing the feeder, one of the ten compartments is 3-3/4″ wide; the other nine are 4″ wide, and the tray then comes out to an even 4 feet long overall. A piece of plywood can be used for the top. For dairy bucks, make the head holes 9″ in diameter. Mount the finished feeder at whatever height seems comfortable for your adult goats; usually an inch or so above the tail is satisfactory, and helps prevent accidental soiling. Kids will put their front feet on the foot board and reach in through the keyholes, though tiny kids can benefit from a couple of concrete blocks placed on the ground in front of the feeder.
The sources of supply for the supplements we recommend and use ourselves, are:
(1) Innovators Route #4 Box 192, Brenham, Texas 77833; phone 409 830-5444, sells Kelp meal and some other products based on it. At present they are the most reasonably priced supplier of kelp meal in the US known to us; many feed stores and agricultural distributors sell small quantities packaged for horses at much higher prices.
(2) Diamond Mills Inc. Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52407 makes and distributes their Diamond V Yeast Culture. They do not sell direct, but feed stores can get the product.
(3) The Grain and Salt Society P.O. Box DD, Magalia, California 95954; phone 916 872-5800, or 1-800-TOP SALT. These are very fine people genuinely interested in health and nutrition; a pleasure to work with.