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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Goats & Copper supplementation

I frequently get questions about copper and goats.  This is a topic of much debate and discussion, and there has been less research than on the copper needs of sheep, cattle and horses.  In Europe, copper needs for dairy goats have been established.

Here are some key points I have found out about copper.  I am not listing all the various citations after each point.  You can google the topics and find citations to back up any of these statements, unless otherwise indicated:
  • The form of copper is critical.  Copper oxides are very hard to absorb and use.  Copper sulfates are more absorbable.  Copper proteinate is even more absorbable.  Copper amino acid chelate is the most absorbable.  Amino acid chelated copper also catalyzes the uptake of the more unabsorbable forms.
  • Other minerals can inhibit or enable copper uptake.  What you feed the copper with is just as important as the copper itself, and this includes your water, pasture, hay and grain.
  • Iron is a copper inhibitor.  If you live in an area of high iron soil, you are more likely to need additional copper.
  • Goats need more copper than sheep.  Feeding a supplement designed for sheep will lead to copper deficiency and health issues.
  • Goats likely need as much copper as cattle, possibly more.
  • Copper has the potential to accumulate in the liver, and if the animal is stressed, release suddenly causing a severe health crisis.
Some thoughts on the research establishing copper requirements in goats:
  • The research should consider the form the copper is in, as some forms are more likely to accumulate rather than flush from the body.
  • Mineral interactions are so complex, can one mineral truly be isolated in a study?
Here are several links I found:

So, all of this being said, what I have chosen to do at Oak Hill for our goats is based on all of the information above, plus anecdotal information from various goat keepers, combined with muscle testing to tailor the nutrition to my herd and environment.  At Oak Hill, I have 2 basic feed programs - one for animals that are breeding, pregnant or lactating and one for the resting season and whethers.
Here is an older blog post on the subject.  For the pregnant/breeding/lactating goats, I use a pinch of Regular Dynamite (horse formula), fed 6 days/week.  For resting/whethers, I offer the Dynamite V/M Mix for Browsers & Grazers free choice.  For both groups, I always offer the following free choices:  Dynamite 1-1, Dynamite 2-1, Dynamite Izmine, Dynamite NTM Salt and baking soda.
Once or twice a year, the goats are off all their supplements while they do their 28 days on Dynamite Herbal Tonic.  I feel this may also allow them to flush any excess copper from their body.

I use the Dynamite product line because the minerals are amino acid chelated, and because Dynamite is a family owned and operated business with great ethics and a moneyback guarantee on their products.  I use their horse products, in smaller amounts, because they have not yet released an exclusive goat product line.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your goat’s health program.

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