Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

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How would you handle goats that refuse minerals?  Even my two Icelandic lambs, who live with my does, are refusing them.  I started using Crystal Creek (available at my feed store) but they won't touch it.  Not the does, not the lambs, not the wethers (who are housed separately, so they can't be copying the girls).  I then tried Back in Balance (which costs more) as the breeders I have talked to say it's the best.  Nope.  I then, out of desperation, tried the cafeteria style minerals so they can pick what they want...and they inhale Sulfur.  I have high Iron in my water, I'm in a copper deficient area, and am definitely having copper issues so the sulfur eating is boggling my mind.  It's an antagonist to copper, right?  They don't touch the copper supplement.  They also inhale the kelp and a little Selenium.  So lots of kelp, lots of Sulfur, sometimes Selenium...but nothing else.  Someone local told me to take away the kelp and give them the mineral mix, thinking the kelp was stopping them from eating minerals.  That didn't work either. 

I'm basically losing my mind, and my money...possibly the goats and sheep at this rate.  I bolused the whole lot again as they have fish tail, rough coats, and my black doe has white spectacles.  I have issues here.  But how do I get these stinkers to take up minerals just so they have some kind of baseline nutrition?  If they "know" when they need minerals, and look homeless from obvious deficiencies, why don't they do it?  

I do put out small amounts at a time so the minerals aren't stale.  It doesn't matter if they are fresh everyday, they just won't take it.  I make smiley faces in the surface of the fresh minerals and the same design will be there at the end of the day.  I don't think it's because goats don't like smiley faces.

Any ideas?

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From what I gather, the loose minerals that I buy are enticing to the goats because there's salt in them. Do the mineral blends you've mentioned have salt? (I imagine your acquaintance told you to take away the kelp because it provides salt, making your animals not go for the salty minerals.)

I've also read that sheep shouldn't have copper like goats do. Don't know if by "bolused the whole lot" you were including the lambs there.

Still a newbie here myself, with my newbie thoughts. Best wishes!

Two of the minerals do have salt in them.  The company for the minerals without salt advised to add salt in to encourage the goats to eat them, but the goats didn't care.  I was advised to remove the kelp so there wasn't something else competing with the minerals.  Basically, the goats would "know" they are missing elements in their diet with the kelp removed so they would be more inclined to start consuming minerals...the theory.  I have removed the plain salt as well.  Good question. 

I should have clarified my sheep are Icelandic and can handle copper, which is why I have them with my goats.  They can handle being bolused.  They are brown sheep and are turning white, so there is a real deficiency of copper here.  I don't want to start anything on copper and sheep, but added them in to add to the case that for whatever reason NO ONE will eat ANY mixed mineral.  Not the girls.  Not the boys.  And not the sheep.  I can't fathom buying a fourth mineral just to see if that will work when I know other people are using these brands successfully.  I think my husband will cut up my credit card if I buy more minerals (thank you dear, patient husband). 

Naomi, thank you for your newbie thoughts :)  

I am actually thinking that the goats might not be consuming the minerals because there is too much salt. I just googled Crystal Creek Goat minerals, and their website does not have any nutritional information, which makes me highly suspicious. Salt is used to drive and limit consumption, so if there is too much salt, it will actually reduce their consumption, so the balance is very important. Can you find a feed tag that says what the nutrients are and post it? And what is the percentage of salt? It should be around 10-15%, but many so-called minerals are much higher -- some as high as 98% salt. 

As for the Back in Balance ... if this is it ... ... it is pretty much worthless. It has 0 copper, 0 selenium, 0 zinc, 0 cobalt, 0 vitamin E. I'm having a hard time believing anyone has healthy goats if that is the only mineral they are using. 

You should NOT have salt in more than one mineral. When they did studies where the goats had no clue which minerals to eat, it was because they used salt in all of them. When you tried cafeteria style minerals, what was the carrier in the various minerals? I have free choice selenium available, and the carrier is wheat middlings. 

Kelp does not reduce their consumption of other minerals. It may be salty, but it will taste like kelp. So it's different. The same is true of baking soda. It is also salty, but it tastes different -- and goats only consume the baking soda if they need it, so they should not be consuming much, if any, even when it is left out all the time.

Salt should not be available separately. They don't need it if you are feeding a mineral with salt in it. They can only consume so much salt, and a good mixed mineral puts the daily requirement of salt in the mineral. Since salt is cheap, no one puts too little salt. Like I already said, many mineral companies actually put too much.

Naomi, if you use Sweetlix, it's the molasses that they claim increases the consumption -- hence the name sweet-licks.  

I understand about the sheep. I have Shetlands, which are distantly related to Icelandics, and they have had issues with copper deficiency also. 

I watched your video on goats from the Home Grown Food Summit was fantastic!  And naturally I have read your book and it was equally fantastic :)

Crystal Creek is the brand that my local organic grain producer sells.  It's true they don't post the ingredients online.  It is on the bag, however.  I did speak with a representative of the company and he was nice enough to answer questions.  I don't know why they aren't transparent about ingredients.  I can't seem to get the picture of tag to load.  The salt content is quite high at 25%.

The Back in Balance Goat Mineral that I purchased does have 325ppm copper, 25ppm selenium, 100 ppm cobalt, and 2,000 units of E.  The salt content is 1 - 3%.  I have also spoke with the woman who designed this formula, who said the amounts of each mineral are lower because they are chelated are more bioavailable.  Now, I have read Pat Coleby's book and she says to never use chelated so I never really knew what's true in this case.  I commented on the copper in this mineral being copper lysine and she recommended I add copper sulfate separate...amongst other things, so I have mixed feelings about this provider anyway.  She said we can add salt to encourage the goats to eat it, but I don't want to buy something I need to adulterate.  B in B is made in Northern Minnesota, where I am located, and the breeders South of me say they are using this mineral with success.  If salt would prohibit the goats from eating Crystal Creek, why then wouldn't they eat Back in Balance with minimal salt?

As for the cafeteria style minerals (ABC minerals), they have a varying amount of salt in them, most are absolutely too high.  Strangely, they company insists I set out a separate white salt in addition to the minerals.  I only purchased a couple of the minerals to see if I could figure out how to get the goats to eat some copper, ANY copper.  And also purchased Selenium, Zinc, Sulfur, and one other.  I'm just going crazy trying to puzzle this all together.  I did call and talk with that company too.  They scolded me for not buying the entire spread of minerals, but I figured if the goats don't eat the copper at the very least then they weren't going to fall for the rest of the spread.  And what a price to pay for the whole thing!  Those ARE the separate minerals that the goats and sheep DO eat...the crazy high salt minerals.  But not the copper of course, the whole reason I tried those minerals.  *sigh* 

I have been trying to avoid anything with molasses.  I have thick woods with thick mosquitoes and ticks, so I'm not looking to make my goats and sheep any more tasty to bugs than they already are.  Chickens can only do so much for the bug population.  I know neighbors use molasses based products and they have buggy animals.  

So, Deborah, are you saying I need to find another mineral?  My other resort is to use a cheap local brand, which I'm not excited about for many reasons.  OR, the big scary...making up the Pat Coleby mix.

Wow, so much to know.

No, I don't use Sweetlix though I did try it once--I get mine from a local feed store and it seems to do well. It's not sweetened but the goats go right for it when we put a fresh scoop out (morning and evening).

Sparrow, would you mind sharing reasons why you're not excited about the cheap local mix?

Our local feed store mineral is Manna Pro.  It has molasses, which I am trying to avoid.  But also one of the top ingredients is corn as a carrier, which I would make a high bet is GMO.  The above brands I have tried are all organic.  I can't eat/sell organic products if my goats are eating non-organic food, including supplements.  

How much copper and selenium are in the Crystal Creek minerals?

As for chelated minerals ... I contacted the animal science professor who has done research on copper requirements of goats, and I asked him if it was true that goats need less of chelated copper than copper sulfate, and he said it has not been studied. When I have searched the research, I haven't been able to find anything about how much chelated copper a goat needs, and I don't remember anything in Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants about chelated, but I am at a conference right now ad can't double check. 

I figured you were using ABC minerals for the cafeteria style, and I knew they had salt in them, which is why I don't use them. 

You can get a selenium-E from Fertrell and use it free choice. It is labeled as a feed additive, but I have it available free choice. It uses wheat middlings as the carrier -- or it did. I just got a message from someone last week saying that she just bought it and the carrier is now alfalfa. I told her to put it out for the goats and if they start gobbling it up uncontrollably to remove it, but they didn't do that at all. She said a couple of them didn't even touch it -- only sniffed it. So she has it available free choice.

Using minerals with molasses in them will not increase bug problems or make them more tasty to the bugs. There is actually something biological about some specific critters that makes them more tasty to internal parasites (and humans to mosquitoes), but it is something genetic. It has nothing to do with diet. This is why some goats have more resistance to parasites than others. They just don't taste as good. I have an interview with an animal scientist in my parasite course where she talks about this. 

Manna Pro is not a good mineral for breeding animals because it does not have enough selenium in it. Wethers would do okay with it, but breeding animals really need the selenium for fertility and labor and birth.

I totally understand what you're saying about organic, and I tried really hard to raise my goats organically many years ago -- meaning all organic inputs -- and I nearly lost them all to copper deficiency. The organic goat feed in our area is unfortunately not nutritionally complete. So, you may have to choose between goats that have nutritional deficiencies that can lead to all sorts of heart-breaking health problems OR consuming feed and minerals that are nutritionally complete and also happen to contain non-organic grains. Honestly if someone told me that was my choice before I ever got goats, I would not have gotten them, BUT once I had them I just couldn't give up on them, and I couldn't continue to watch all of the fertility problems, premature births, and deaths of goats that were 1-3 years old. I don't know why you have goats, but sheep and cows are very easy to raise organically because they can be 100% grassfed. 

Crystal Creek copper is 1,200 Cu min, and the Selenium is 27 ppm.

Respectfully, I really just wondered how to get the animals to consume minerals.  I am using the same brands as other people around here, who are not having problems with organic husbandry beyond needing an extra copper bolus, but my animals just don't want them.  It isn't too much salt in Crystal Creek since they have less than ABC, which the goats like.  It isn't that they don't want any salt, since they won't eat B in B.  I just wonder how to get them to eat minerals freely and wonder what people with the same issues have done to resolve it.    

I am actually a biochemist and have done research for many years for humans, so I don't know everything about animal needs, but as a scientist I know there can be information found and wielded based on a persons preconceived beliefs, so I don't always put as much value in a scientist as I will in a person who has done something for years and has the first hand experience...which may sound weird coming from a scientist.  I've witnessed too many experiments being tweaked.  So, for things like molasses, it can be genetics, I totally agree.  But there are enough people who see first hand that Molasses fed livestock can have a harder time with bugs than non molasses fed animals.  Just like ticks love me but not my husband (genetics) but if I eat garlic everyday I become more repulsive to ticks (and my husband).  Sometimes the answer can be "both".  Since I live in one of the worst deer tick populated areas of the country I don't feel like potentially adding to the problem for the goats.  I do weird things, so, this is just another one of those things.

I do have access to all organic feeds so that isn't an issue for me.  Frankly, this goes beyond "organic" labels for me. But I do believe there is a way to raise goats organically here, as there are plenty of people who do so, and am endeavoring to find a way to get organic minerals into the goats (and sheep, as the hay isn't cutting it for them either) which is the very last element I am missing.  I just feel like my animals are being hoity toity about wanting special minerals and it's boggling my mind of how to get them consumed without feeding it directly in grain everyday.  I know I have seen other people have the same issue and was hoping to get input on it.  I have considered using Pat Coleby's method, but I think that will arouse just as much excitement as using the word "organic" :)

But organic aside, even if I went to the Fleet supply and bought Manna Pro I would still be missing the mark on supplementing my goats for breeding and would need MORE's frustrating that this can be such a multifaceted problem. 

Deborah, I did call Fertrell two weeks ago and, per the feed tag they emailed me, the carrier was still wheat.  Thank you for your continued help!  

You can't just make goats consume minerals. I have never in 17 years heard of goats that would not consume minerals for no reason. I am trying to figure out the reason, and sometimes that takes a lot of questions and answers back and forth. There is no one-size-fits-all method of raising goats. I have said for years that you can't simply do what your neighbor is doing and expect it to work for you. Every farm is different. If you've read a lot of my stuff, you may be familiar with the example that I use all the time, which is that I've had a neighbor who has been raising goats for 20 years and never had to supplement her goats the way mine are supplemented. Why? Because she doesn't have sulfur and iron in her well water like I do. If she just did what I do, she might wind up with dead goats. Multiple people have told me they have killed goats by following the advice in Pat Coleby's book. She is from Australia, so things there are very different. I know people who've killed multiple goats by giving Multi-Min injections because they were just doing what someone else told them worked for them. So I would not suggest that you try that either unless you have some liver biopsies to know for sure that you are dealing with deficiency issues.

I'm sorry this is not simple. For the first five years I had goats, I never had a buck live past the age of 3, and I had does not getting pregnant and/or staying pregnant, and no one had any idea why any of it was happening. That's why I started doing my own research, talking to researchers and professors, and figuring out exactly what was happening on my farm that was causing the results that I was getting. I've gotten pretty good at trouble-shooting with others through the years, but with your education, you might just want to dig into a scholarly database (or Google Scholar if you don't have subscription access to one) and see what you can find.

Gotcha. I never thought much about whether a loose mineral mix was organic or not, since it literally just looks like a bunch of ground up rocks. You're right though, my label shows corn gluten feed and soybean meal in it.

Sparrow said:

Our local feed store mineral is Manna Pro.  It has molasses, which I am trying to avoid.  But also one of the top ingredients is corn as a carrier, which I would make a high bet is GMO.  The above brands I have tried are all organic.  I can't eat/sell organic products if my goats are eating non-organic food, including supplements.  

I do appreciate your knowledge and questions, Deborah.  I guess I was getting nervous this would turn into an organic vs. non...I don't really know it all, no one can, and don't want to get side tracked, or more so, offend anyone.  I get lit up all the time from friends and family that think I'm wasting my time by not using chemicals, so I am touchy about it :(   Being chemical free has been a rough, lonely road.

I went to a local farm today to look at his Icelandic sheep, and would you know the farmer has never used minerals...ever.  It was strange to see that a man who lives 45 minutes away sleeps just fine at night not giving minerals at all, whereas this has been so life consuming for me.  His ewes have babies, the black color is sharp and dark, they don't need any worming, ever...just blew my mind.  I'm not saying what he is doing is right, but it is a very fair statement that every farm is different.

I also spoke with a local goat breeder yesterday who said she has never heard of goats not eating minerals.  It seems to be what everyone is telling me.  My goats are broken I guess.  I just can't figure out why the goats will eat the different minerals offered separate with ABC but not take up either brand of mixed minerals.   They really have all the classic signs of missing copper, and I don't have any dead animals for getting a liver biopsy, so...maybe I just bolus again (its been 5 weeks since the last bolus)  and move on?

Thanks friends for sticking with me this far!!!    

If you have read anything that I've written I'm surprised you would think that I'm against organic. My author bio says we moved to a creek in the middle of nowhere to grow our own food organically. It is not about organic vs non-organic. It is about figuring out what your goats need and giving them what they need. I hope everyone can feed their goats as organically as possible. Unfortunately it is not always possible to find everything organic. About 95% of my diet is organic, but I do eat conventional food when I'm traveling because not all restaurants have organic food.

I explained that the only reason my goats are not on organic grain is because they were dying and not getting pregnant when I tried to do that. Even Joel Salatin has examples of where he has used conventional medicine when he has had problems that could not be solved with natural things at his disposal. Sometimes we have to make tough choices. And I'm not all that surprised that someone with Icelandics has been able to go totally organic. As I said, sheep are much easier, especially heritage breeds. My Shetlands were totally organic other than occasionally getting some Sweetlix minerals to keep them from becoming copper deficient ... because I had two ewes that were about to die on me, and I was at my wits end and realized that if they were goats, I'd think they were copper deficient as they had all of the symptoms. I always say to listen to your animals more than people -- and your animals are telling you something when they won't eat the minerals. You have to figure out what they are telling you. 

I would NOT give a bolus again after only five weeks, although I can't see where you mentioned the dosage. How much did you give?

And it's really puzzling me that your goats are eating a lot of sulfur. Any chance your soil is molybdenum deficient? That is really rare, but if so, the goats could be approaching copper toxicity. 

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