Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

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I’m seeing symptoms in my goats that I believe to be mineral related. However I’m not sure which mineral(s) if it is indeed a mineral issue. Hair loss on body usually sides or spine. No hair loss on face or tail. Flakey, white skin patches. Rear leg movement abnormalities like swinging inward when walking and seeming to have hip instability. Bucks needing months of trying to settle does, does having inconsistent heats or failing to settle after exposure to multiple bucks. Coccidia, worms, and General illness increases. This all started after a cross country move.
Prior to this I had never had any of these issues. My herd had been in great health for years and now I’ve lost three goats in the last few months. All of my girls are now settled and I want to make sure they are in tip top health. They all receive a free choice mineral and a mix of alfalfa and orchard pellets in the evenings. Pasture during the day. We’re in Virginia. Thank you for any advice.

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Fertility problems are usually caused by copper and/or selenium deficiency. Skin issues on random parts of the body are usually zinc related. 

Copper deficiency can cause bowed legs. Is that what you're seeing when you say the rear legs are abnormal? 

All three of these minerals are very important to immune function.

What mineral do you have available free choice? Is it a loose mineral? 

Did you get necropsies on the goats that died? 

I used to use Purina goat mineral but when I started noticing more of these issues I switched to DeraFerm but they had mistakenly given me sheep mineral at first so I had to add a copper bolus. I’ve reordered the correct goat one and that should be here shortly. I just did another copper bolus today which is about 3mo after the last one. We did do necropsies and they showed meningeal worm. That pen butted up against my wooded area and has since been relocated but I’ve put in more barriers to keep the deer away. They showed acceptable mineral levels however the issues described above started to stack up the longer we were in this area so it’s highly possible that stores are just being depleted. I’m going to add in free choice zinc and continue with copper bolus and selenium as neeeed and I’m hoping that once the other mineral gets here it starts to help too but I may just need to always top up those three I guess. Thank you for your response and confirming my suspicions. At least I have an idea where to start. 

If this is the mineral you are getting ... 

The copper is okay if you don't have any copper antagonists in your well water, such as sulfur or iron.

The selenium is too low for breeding animals. I really want to see 50 ppm selenium, which is what they have in Purina and Sweetlix. Even with 50 ppm, some people in deficient areas still have to do additional selenium, so 16 is just not acceptable unless you have pet wethers. 

The zinc is also not as high as I like to see. Basically if they are telling you zinc in ppm rather than a %, it's too low because 1% = 10,000 ppm. 

And yes, it takes time to see a deficiency crop up after moving to a new place or changing minerals, feed, water, etc. It's not unusual to have someone with an established herd move to a new place and start losing goats. This is why I always say that  you shouldn't do something simply because someone else is doing it because every farm is different. And if you move a herd, it's really like starting over learning to work with the goats, so you can't expect that what worked on your old farm will work on this farm. 

That’s exactly what it feels like, like I’m starting all over even though I have the same animals. It’s been frustrating and devastating and very humbling but I also feel like it’s taught me a lot that I hope will help me do better moving forward. I’m going to switch back to Purina I think as well cause like you mentioned I tried deraferm based on a recommendation from someone else but I just don’t think it’s working for my herd. Live and learn. Thank you!  

Ok intermediate update, we’re back on Purina goat mineral and I’ve just started to also offer a loose selenium. I’m thinking I still also need to add an additional zinc supplement as I’m still seeing random hair loss patches and flacky white skin and some foaming at the mouth. I’m wondering if my does leg issues are joint stiffness as well connected to the zinc issues. In my area it’s hard to find alfalfa except for a few months in summer so all of my goats male and female receive Timothy exclusively most of the year. I’m seeing the above issues in my does but not as much in my bucks. Those two things made me think it wasn’t a zinc issue originally but now I’m pretty sure it is. Also my bucks never got stinky this year and it took several tries to settle does. Hopefully once I add the extra zinc I’ll have a better update. 

Hi Maggie

A couple of questions for you =)

Do your goats get free choice baking soda?

Are you supplementing your pregnant does with alfalfa pellets since there is no alfalfa hay around?

How old are your bucks?

Have you inspected your goats closely for external parasites? Lice and mites can also cause flaky skin and hair loss.

I also noticed that the goats who previously died had meningeal worms- here is a podcast that Deborah did about the deer worm. It has lots of great information that may help you fend them off as best you can in the future-

Yes we’ve taken care of the deer issue as best we can by moving the pen away from the deer trail and adding a taller perimeter fence. I have been checking for parasites and I haven’t found anything so far. I’m getting ready to shave everyone at the start of next month and that’ll give me an even better view to check again. No free choice baking soda and no they haven’t had any alfalfa pellets or hay on a regular basis. I was also wondering if I can leave the loose selenium vitamin e combo out free choice or if I should just do a little bit every day. Thanks so much for everyone’s help! It’s been a roller coaster since I moved. 

I would suggest putting baking soda out free choice for your goats to see if the foaming goes away. This never would have been a question or an issue 5+ years ago because knew that goats should have free choice baking soda available. However, social media has perpetuated the myth that goats don't need baking soda "because they make their own bicarbonate." Well, a little bit of knowledge can be a bad thing, and this is a good example. Goats only make bicarbonate when they're chewing, so if they are eating things that require very little chewing, such as grain, goat feed, and hay pellets, then they are not producing as much bicarbonate, so they need to have it available for them to consume separately. Here is more on that topic:

I just had someone else with goats foaming and no other zinc deficiency symptoms, and it finally clicked that it could be because they were not getting any baking soda, and they just had a slightly upset rumen. (She was not providing baking soda for them.)

You can't see mites. Only lice are visible to the naked eye, and you can't see them unless you have 20/20 vision. 

Pregnant goats and milkers need alfalfa because they need a LOT of calcium to grow baby's bones and make milk. Since zinc deficiency usually happens in bucks eating alfalfa, I doubt zinc deficiency is your problem. 

How old are your bucks? 

Can you post a photo of the hair loss? 

Thanks! I’ll put out some baking soda. The weird thing is that I’m not seeing these signs in my bucks just my does. I did treat everyone with python dust a few weeks ago just to cover some bases but maybe I should use ivermectin pour on instead? I will try to get some more alfalfa. They also do have access to pasture and some browse but it’s still been mostly grass hay in their diet since we moved here a few months ago. Thanks again everyone!

I just successfully treated a lice outbreak in my herd. It was my first time having them, and since I had never had a problem, I wasn't really looking for them. My boys were really the worst. They had very flaky skin as well as some weeping spots with missing hair on their lower legs and scabs and missing hair on their scrotums. After treating with ivermectin pour on, they started growing hair back within a week! I brushed them all out yesterday and could not believe how much better their skin looks. I too thought I was dealing with a zinc deficiency but their problem was bugs =/ I didn't even see them on the first 2 that I checked, but #3 was loaded with them, then I went back and checked the first 2, and found them on those 2 as well. They really are hard to see. I would use a magnifying glass or a magnifier app on your phone and check all over them. If you see them, dose with Ivermectin Pour on. I used 1ml/22# as recommended in Sheep Goat and Cervid Medicine 3rd edition. As Deborah mentioned, you cannot see mites at all, they would require a skin scrape for confirmation. 

If you can't find alfalfa hay, offer the girls alfalfa pellets. They will still also need the grass hay in their diet to keep rumen function optimal.

Thanks so much guys. I’ll definitely go get the ivermectin. I would almost it rather be external parasites instead of mineral issues. I also just enrolled in Deborah’s parasite course so it’s good timing! I really really appreciate your help with all of my questions the last few months. I went from not having any health issues like this at all over 5 years in one location. And then once I moved to a location that is different in every possible way I can’t seem to get ahead of anything. It’s been very humbling and hard. Ive had way too many losses the last 6 months and Ive considered giving up entirely and selling my herd because I thought it would be better for them. Your help and empathy both through here and your webpage Deborah have really kept me going and saved me a little bit of optimism. 

One last thing I just thought of. Should I only treat the goats showing the most signs with the ivermectin pour on it should I treat the whole herd? Thanks!!

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