MINERALS AND GOATS (Part 1)

While there are standards for Goat intake of energy and protein foods which are mainly useful for beginners these should serve only as a rough check for the experienced goat keeper. Problems which arise from Goat mineral needs afflict all manner of Goats and you, the experienced goat keeper and constitutes the principal difficulty of managing high yielding herds.

The Goat being a small ruminant works at a higher metabolic rate hence naturally with greater ‘wear and tear’ and therefore requires more mineral supplements and maintenance. The workings of the digestive tract involves the use and loss of large quantities of minerals in the digestive juices.

The Goat has an outstanding mineral requirement because it has a small body with high metabolic rate with a digestive system occupying one third of their body and producing milk richer than cow’s milk and greater in volume than sheep. Feeding which may seem adequate for other farm stock is most probably deficient for the goat.

Many of us think we know enough after some experience and reading and thus coming up with our idea of what a balance mineral supplement should be. Such commercial mixtures usually serve a purpose at a cost way out of proportion to the value of our Goat. Since it is designed to meet the requirements of cattle under orthodox systems of mineral management, that particular mixture will not be balanced for your Goat. Even commercial mixtures for the Goat may supposedly be balanced but it may just be not that for the individual goat as it depends on its feeding and expected yield, meat or milk. However it must be clearly understood that an excess of minerals becomes a heavy strain of your Goat’s kidneys which is largely responsible for getting rid of any surplus. An excess of any one mineral is liable to make another non-available. A chronic excess of many minerals deranges the workings of the vital processes.

Calcium and Phosphorus are the principal components of the goat skeleton and are essential for the chemistry in a variety of vital functions. Calcium for example is concerned with blood clotting and in the control of the metabolic rate and in nervous control. Phosphorus is needed for the release of muscular energy, for the digestion of oils, fats and for body cell making whether for growth, replacement or reproduction.

Calcium and Phosphorus are deposited in the bone together. If the need for either is needed by the body and the present diet cannot provide for it then both are released from the bones. These two minerals are always associated yet they are opposed in the effect on the body’s chemistry.

When there is a Calcium deficiency in the blood the goat will tend to overdo it. It will eat well, yield well and be very excitable. Then all of a sudden it will collapse. Phosphorus deficiency may take other forms but is always accompanied by a rather dull and apathetic attitude towards life.

In simple terms think of Calcium as the brake and Phosphorus as the accelerator. In those capacities they act on the thyroid gland which controls the metabolic rate and the rate of which Calcium and Phosphorus is withdrawn from the skeleton to serve the needs of milk production or meat development.

Magnesium in small quantities is required in the diet where it is a needed companion and assistant to Calcium in the chemistry of the goat’s body. Some functions of Calcium cannot be performed without the presence of Magnesium. When the Magnesium content in grass falls with the seasonal changes, grass fed goats are prone to Tetany. Apart from this problem lack of Magnesium can lead to general slight ill health.

Now let’s look at Iodine. The thyroid gland which controls the metabolic rate needs a supply of Iodine which in turn is needed for the manufacture thyroxine. If the supply of Iodine is not within its requirements the thyroid gland increases in size to make most of small resources and a goitre is produced. But this is an unreliable symptom and the least important consequence of Iodine deficiency which can and will cause ill health without any or noticeable difference in the size of the thyroid gland which is located in the throat. Iodine deficiency produces symptoms which include harsh coarse dry hair, dead parchment skin, still born and often hairless kids. Coming back to the thyroid gland, the goat’s ability to assimilate vitamin A and Carotene depends on its thyroid activity. So Iodine deficiency bears in its train of consequences of vitamin A deficiency as well which means retarded growth, infertility and low resistance to infection. Compared to a cow the goat has a thyroid gland which is half as big when proportioning bodyweight. The more productive your Goat, the greater will there be a need for Iodine.

Iodine differs from all other minerals in that it is only present in very small quantities in plants and almost entirely available in soil. It is rich in soils that hold their moisture well, peats, clays and humus rich land. Lime blocks the uptake of Iodine from the soil as it suppresses the effect of thyroxine in the blood. Over limed corps should be avoided as with corps subjected to heavy applications of artificial manures.

Copper is needed by the Goat in very small quantities and is needed to aid digestion and the use of iron in the body. The symptoms of Copper deficiency is scours, a dull and staring coat and loss of pigment from the hair giving the goat a washed out appearance. If you do not have access to a mineral supplement that contains Copper you can make your own. The recipe is 1 gm. of Copper Sulphate dissolved in a litre of water to be poured over 3 kg. of Salt. Let this mixture evaporate naturally and when dry add 600 gm. of red oxide of iron. Your Goats should have free access to this.

Cobalt is needed by the Goat to provide the bacteria in its digestive tract to synthesize vitamin B12. This vitamin is the antidote to pernicious anaemia. Lack of it causes this disease and encourages acetonamia and possibly other diseases. Some internal parasites rob their hosts of this vitamin when it enters the body from the digestive tract. The proportion of Cobalt included in commercial trace elements mixtures has proved useless for deficient Goats. Dissolve 10gms of Cobalt Sulphate in 300 ml of water, wet it with 2 kg of Salt and offer to goats as free access. If your goat has anaemia as a consequence of worm infestation or acetonaemia that accompanies a low fibre diet, you can counter this by adding 10gm of the above mixture to the feed everyday for a week. You can notice a chronic deficiency of Cobalt when it is evident by a gradual loss of appetite , wasting and sensitivity to cold.

We may cater for the mineral needs of our goats in three ways, Treating the soil on which (if) we grow Goat food, selecting the species of plants we grow for goat food or by feeding a concentrate of mineral mixture.

To be continued…

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