Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

for people who love the littlest dairy goats

I recently lost a goat and was shocked by the necropsy findings so I have some questions. This particular goat has had issues with parasites a lot over his two years of life. When he started having diarrhea I went ahead and wormed him and treated for coccidia because I happened to have a kid at the time with it and I thought maybe he may have it too. I expected things to firm up by the next day but they didn't. I finished his course of safeguard (day 3) and he still had diarrhea. He was not wanting to walk around or eat much and he eventually lied down and struggled to stand again. He was also very pale in his eyelids and so I gave him a copper bolus. I only gave him the kid dose of 2g. However he deteriorated quickly and died that night. I assumed that it was a parasite issue due to his history. However I decided to do a necropsy and a mineral panel to gain info on parasites and mineral levels for my other goats. I was shocked that she determined the cause of death was copper toxicity. His liver copper level was 459! Is it possible that it was just because I had just given it to him? I have other goats with obvious signs of copper deficiency and he had clear signs of barber pole worms and was found to have barber pole worms in his system in high amounts. I just do not understand. 

Views: 121

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Years ago I had a kid die about a week after I had given him copper, and his liver level was 250 ppm, which they said was not toxic. It was high but not high enough to kill him. I feel certain after many liver tests that showed copper around 75 to 100 ppm with other goats that were given copper regularly but not recently that his high level was because he had just been given the copper. So it was probably THAT high because he had just been given copper, but it was probably already quite high before you gave it to him. 

What mineral do you have available for your goats?

When was the last time you had given him copper and how much?

Do you have any photos of him that would show the symptoms you considered to be caused by copper deficiency? If not, can you post photos of other goats that have symptoms? 

Goats can actually survive with a copper level that high, but if they get stressed with a copper level that high, it can kill them. There is more about this topic in my interview with Dr. Van Saun from Penn State:

On the topic of parasites, it sounds like you don't have the most current information. Safeguard is not given for three days in a row for anything other than tapeworms, which don't kill goats. If the diarrhea had not improved within 24 hours, it probably means that the Safeguard is no longer working on your farm, so the next step would be to use ivermectin. You said this goat has had a lot of parasite problems. How many times has he been given Safeguard? How often do other goats get Safeguard? Dewormer resistance is not something that happens in a single goat but rather on the farm because it's about goats pooping out worm eggs from worms that are resistant to a dewormer that they have been exposed to. Then other goats consume the larvae of resistant worms, and that dewormer won't kill them. 

Here is an article about dewormer resistance:

Thank you! I probably had the days wrong because the last time I had given safeguard it was for tapeworms. That’s the thing is that I hadn’t wormed him or given him copper in several months and he is the only one that had continually had issues with it. My other goats are not regularly wormed nor do they show similar signs and symptoms. I purchased him at a year old and know that he was wormed before that on a schedule I believe. I had not given him a copper bolus in three months before that day. He had purina goat mineral free choice. I only gave him the copper that day in hopes it might help if he was having issues with barber pole worms because he was so pale.  

It seemed that every 4-6 months he was getting sick and having diarrhea and some weight loss and my vet did a decal the first couple times that showed high levels of round worms. That was all I was told. I used safeguard at first and then ivermectin the last time before the day he died. I used safeguard that day purely because I was out of ivermectin and at that point was just throwing spaghetti at the wall holding something would stick. He would cough all the time but nothing ever showed in his lungs like pneumonia. He was kind of a problem child health wise but he usually bounced back for a little while.

None of these things are occurring in my other goats. I have one or two goats who occasionally start getting a fish tale or faded coat and I use COWP as needed. I used the safeguard as I mention on a kid who was found to have tape worms and was dealing with poor growth that my vet thought could be from the tapeworm. Other than that the rest of my herd has done so much better this year than last year. 

I used coppasure 2g kid dose the day he died. I usually use the 4g dose on others who show signs of copper deficiency.  I do currently have a buck that I can take a picture of that has a really faded coat that I can get a pic of to show when I do use copper but again I didn’t necessarily think that the buck that died was copper deficient which is also why I gave him a low dose but I was just grasping at straws. 

If I understand correctly, he was 2 year old, and you got him when he was a year, and he has been sick a lot over that year? It's tough when you get a goat from someone else because you may not know what kind of supplementing and deworming they've had. Maybe he showed up with a high copper level and then it just went up more when you gave him copper? It's hard to say. 

I definitely understand the frustration of having a goat with such challenges. That was our story 15 years ago, and I was trying anything and everything. 

I'd still like to see any photos that you have of your other goats that you think might be showing signs of deficiency. I've had people think a goat had fading hair when it had moonspots and stuff like that. So I always ask for photos now.

About the kid with tapeworms ... I interviewed a vet professor and parasite research about "common but unimportant worms," and tapeworms are in that category. They don't really hurt goats unless they are so numerous that they cause an intestinal blockage. If you had a kid with slow weight gain, it was likely due to not enough milk. Was he a multiple? Or was his dam a first freshener? 

Essentially yes the whole year that I have had him he has been sick on and off continuously. It was frustrating and honestly I am not surprised that he ended up dying yet I want to learn as much as I can to help better serve the rest of my herd. 

Here is the story with the dueling with tapeworms and one additional doe who is also slow growing. The first girl was bred here and yes she was one of quads. One of the quads was very small and weak at birth and was pulled by me to bottle feed. The other three, two boys and one girl were left on mom. I left three on this doe because she is a 4th freshener who always produces and feeds triplets without issue. She is a very heavy producer. All three grew normally for the first few months and I had no concerns. At two months both boys were sold as wethers and the doe was retained. She stayed on mom as well as having orchard grass hay and alfalfa pellets to eat. I wasn't worried at first but then she kept getting older and just wasn't growing at the rate I would expect and at this point is much smaller than any other kid I've had at her age (7months 25 lbs). I also have another doe kid who was not born here and who I purchased and arrived here at 10weeks of age. She is the same age and size as the original doeling I mentioned. Now I have two other doelings in this group who while may not be the size id like are much closer and much bigger than these two girls. They are 8 months and 38, and 40lbs.  I started adding additional alfalfa pellets and some dumor sweet feed for the young girls just in case they ere getting bullied out of food by the bigger ones even though I hadn't seen much of that. However it hasn't seemed to make a difference. When the one girl pooped out a large tapeworm I thought maybe it was just that the tapeworm was taking too much so that's when I asked my vet and he agreed with deworming. 

As I've mentioned in other posts I moved here a little over a year ago and the first year was really rough. We had a lot of changes in mineral availability and we went from the dessert to the midatlantic and had parasites for the first time ever. However most of my others are doing much better this fall than last. I felt like I was finally getting a handle on what we needed to do here. Except the one sick boy who came from this area. I got him after I moved here. And the two girls, one was born here, one came from California. 

The boy who is currently showing signs of copper deficiency or at least a faded coat is a red buck who is now turning gold. The first two pics are him normally the last is him the day I gave him copper last week. 


This is why tapeworms get blamed for causing problems -- because you can see them. You can't see barber pole worms or any of the other roundworms, and you can't see coccidia. My kids are 25 pounds by 2-3 months so this is not a new problem with her. If she only weighs that much now, then she was severely underweight at a young age also. It's not just about how much the mom produces. It is also about the kids' personalities.

I've had does that I knew could produce plenty of milk, but some of the kids just do not have the drive to fight off more aggressive siblings, and it is really not uncommon for a doeling to get pushed off to the side by a couple of buckling brothers. I've seen it happen over and over again and had a doeling almost die when I was brand new -- she was so far gone I had to tube feed her -- and then a doeling that did die the next year. Seven years ago, we started weighing kids daily for the first two weeks, and we've had only one case of coccidiosis in that time because if kids get enough to eat, their immune systems are rock solid.

Has this doeling ever been treated for coccidiosis? They can cause permanent damage to the intestinal tract so that a kid may never be able to absorb nutrients properly. It doesn't always cause diarrhea, but it does cause slow weight gain and often anemia. What do her eyelids look like? 

I can't tell from the last photo -- has any of his black hair turned red? The fading in his red is not that dramatic. When I had a buck die with confirmed copper deficiency (liver level of 14 ppm), he was cream when he should have been red. 

Are you rotating pastures now? Or have you been rotating pastures? I'm not sure where you are in your growing season right now. I would take your tiny girl off pasture entirely and put her in the barn so that she can't ingest any more worm larvae. 

Are you in Goats 365? This would be a great thing to discuss during one of our Zoom meetings because there are just so many factors to consider.

Yes his black turns red his red turns gold then white if I let it go. I just didn’t have a more extreme picture because I try to give him copper as soon as he starts looking bad again. At his worst he was so faded he looked like a completely different goat. He had hair loss on his face and tail as well. So the thing with the doe is that she was not always small. I know that they can get pushed around and weaseled out of food but she was a bully to her brothers. She was never not pushing one off to get milk. She has been the only one nursing on her mom for 4 months. She also wasn’t always small. I also weigh and check growth and she grew fine at first then almost just stopped. I have treated all of the kids for coccidia and will again cause I thought about that too. And as I said it’s just these two where the others aren’t having these issues. Everyone is off of pasture now and we just started rotating this year but we are hoping to expand our fencing next year to double the number of pastures we have to help cut down on worms more. These two girls have been dewormed and given coccidia meds but as you mentioned that maybe the safeguard just isn’t doing it anymore. I do know from my vet and a few other breeders here that there is a high level of safeguard resistance in my area. I had hoped that because up until last year none of my goats had ever been dewormed because we lived in the desert and there were no worms basically that they would have a low level of resistance but maybe not.

I appreciate your help and if  I find anything out about these girls I’ll let everyone know but right now I’m just at a loss. I’ve tried all of the usual stuff and I just can’t explain it.

If all of your goats came from California and the previous owner did NOT have goats on the pastures, then your goats have the worms they brought with them from California. It make no difference what anyone else in your area has on their farm -- unless you bought some local goats and put them on your pasture. I can tell you exactly when my worm problems started ... when I brought in a buck from another farm that had a resistance to Safeguard. He died two weeks after I got him but not before he had completely covered my buck pen with his dewormer resistant worm eggs that then infected my other bucks, and I lost two more bucks to worms four months later, and it all went downhill from there.

The other question is, how often have you used Safeguard with your herd this year? And did you use it in California? There is a dairy in Colorado that swears by monthly ivermectin deworming, and they say they know it works because they've been doing it since the 80s and have had no worm problems. Well, they have wasted thousands of dollars in the last 40 years. Obviously they don't have a worm problem because if they did, the worms would have become resistant to ivermectin decades ago. There is a vet in Colorado who raises goats and is one of the contributors to Merck's Vet Manual and she says they have no worm problems in CO and have brought in half dead goats with parasite problems from the east coast that thrived there. It's frustrating how many people out west think that dewormer resistance is a myth because they overuse dewormers but have no worm problems -- but it's because they're in a place that doesn't support worm reproduction and reinfection of goats! 

I'd love to see the growth chart of the doelings because that would offer a big clue as to what caused the problem. If they were gaining weight appropriately then they would have been at 20 pounds by 8-10 weeks of age. 

I'm sure there is an answer but most local vets don't understand how worm problems vary from one part of the country to another. As I said, this would take a conversation with a lot of back and forth Q&A. 

Here is more information about Goats 365:

It includes access to six courses, including Parasites, which includes interviews with vet professors and researchers about the nitty gritty of worms and coccidia. You have to understand the WHY behind it all before you can figure out how to fix your problem. The answer is going to be a little different for every farm, especially from one part of the country to another.

And if you're a premium member, you can come to our twice-a-month Zoom meetings and ask questions and talk through your specific situation. 

To be honest I think you’re exactly right about bringing them in and I’m even almost 100% certain which two bucks brought me this problem. Both of them are now dead, one of them is the buck originally discussed in this post. I never used any dewormer at all in California. I have used Safeguard once this year with the two small does and twice with the above buck. I also used ivermectin once with that buck. I have not used it at all with anyone else. The doe was 2.4lbs at birth and grew fine for a couple months before stalling out. She was 19lbs at 2.5 months, 21 lbs a month later then only went to 25 at 5 months and has stayed there the last two months. Her dad was a small buck and I know she may be slightly smaller than her mom but not that small. 

As the old vet adage says ... most problems are bought and sold. It definitely sounds like those two bucks brought in the parasite problem. 

Did that doeling have a case of coccidiosis around two months of age? Sometimes that can damage the lining of their intestines so that they have trouble absorbing nutrients later. We have had one case of coccidiosis in the last 7 years since we started weighing kids regularly, and he wound up being super small, and we butchered him at 18 months, and I sent in his liver for analysis, and his copper level was only 15 in spite of the fact that I just given him copper a month earlier. 

The idea that kids will be small because they have a smaller parent is not an excuse for a kid to be half the normal size. There are no normal, healthy 30-pound adult Nigerians. Since size defines the breed, there is actually very little variation in adult sizes. 

Once again problems bought and sold… the other doeling that is very small was a purchase. She had a bad case of diarrhea on her trip out to me from her original farm. She still had a little the day she got here but I gave some corid and it cleared up. That was at about the time the other doe was 7-8 weeks. The bought doe had diarrhea again a month or so later but it cleared up fast on its own so I didn’t think much of it. Now those are both the two small ones while my other two juniors are within a pound or two of where id like them and weren’t there at that time. 

So I’m definitely concerned at this point that the two small ones are unrecoverable. Has anyone ever had any luck with probiotics or any other gut therapy? If not I have another question. Obviously even if she grew another 10lbs I would not be comfortable breeding her she is just too small. However, do you think that she could safely be used for an embryo transfer? If she only needed to stay pregnant for one week and would never be giving birth would there be any size based reason not to do that with her? Her genetics would make that worth the cost and extra hassle for me but I don’t want to cause her more problems. I’m hoping that if she is never going to actually give birth she could handle it. 

Maybe you were thinking like me back in 2004 -- as long as I'm buying from herds that are tested negative for diseases, I don't have to quarantine. And then I learned that it's not that simple. I bought two new bucks this summer, and they are STILL in quarantine five months later! I just let each one breed a doe last weekend. I've got the facilities to keep them separate, so why take any chances. Plus, I know the person I bought them from overused dewormers with them, so I really didn't want those worm eggs on my pasture. I have a long, complicated plan to put them on pasture.

If the kids have actual scarring in their intestines, it's not just a matter of adding good gut flora. I had 3 different knee surgeries when I was 13-14, and I still have scars, even though I put lots of vitamin E oil on them back then like everyone told me to do. Scars are permanent, especially big ones. At an ADGA conference years ago in Michigan, I attended a necropsy done by a vet professor, and he showed us the scarring in the kid's intestines from coccidia. He had also showed us photos of the normal inside of intestines in the lecture before the necropsy, and every single bit of the inside of the intestine that he cut open had massive scarring.  

The two main dangers in breeding one of your tiny does would be that if they are not big enough, they could wind up with a c-section, and if they are nutrient deficient, they will have sickly kids. The first doe that got diagnosed with copper deficiency in my herd had 2-month-old kids when she died, and I struggled with those kids forever. One of them wouldn't even get pregnant until she was 2 to kid at age 3. She had mastitis twice and a chronically high SCC level, and then she died 2 days after freshening the second time. The necropsy showed both mastitis and pneumonia, either of which could have killed her. The other one struggled with parasites forever. 

Obviously you don't have to worry about her size giving birth if you are doing embryo transfers, but I personally would not feel terribly confident about getting healthy embryos from a goat that had challenges like that. 

Reply to Discussion


Books written by Deborah Niemann

Order this book on Kindle!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Need goat equipment?

Yogurt Maker

2-quart milk pail

Mineral feeder (put minerals in one side and baking soda in the other!)

© 2022   Created by Deborah Niemann-Boehle.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service