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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I remember this feeling well Maggie! Exact same thing happened to me when I relocated from a pasture that was mostly forest and had never had animals contained on it, to pastures that were over-gazed and all grass. It has been an uphill battle for a year and a half but I am finally getting to know the needs of my herd in this new area. As you mentioned, I too had to completely start from scratch with parasite control, mineral and nutrition evaluations, even heat cycles and breeding are different here due to the extreme heat. I was almost ready to throw in the towel.

If your goats do indeed have external parasites, I would treat them all. Just a few unnoticed lice on an untreated goat can start the cycle over again. They cannot live off of their host for more than a few days, but can certainly get onto an untreated host and carry on if not already impacted by the treatment! Do keep in mind, that pour ons are more likely to create internal parasite resistance because they slowly decline in the system over a period of time and any worms that survive the initial dosing are now being exposed to a low dose environment which helps them build resistance to it. This 'slow release' of the drug from the body is also what kills any lice that hatch from eggs after treatment, so it is sort of a double edged sword. So just keep that in mind =)

If you think it's external parasites, and it's so bad that you feel like you need to treat more than about 1/3 of your herd, you could use something like sulfur, which won't expose your goats (and their worms) to a dewormer. 

Fertility issues could be  related to copper or selenium. You can test your goats for selenium levels with blood, but you need a liver biopsy to test for copper accurately. Has anyone's coat color faded since you moved? Can you post a few photos of the goats you are concerned about so that we can see what they look like? 

No one has had color loss in their coats and I have a few black and dark red goats who have not lost any color. I am having the most problems with one goat. She seems to have both internal and external parasites. On top of that she kidded today, 6 days early, to stillborn triplets. This is the very first time I e ever had a dead kid. Thanks to you though and reading your book I was able to be reassured by the fact that they seem to have been dead for sometime now and there was nothing I could have done today to make a difference. I just feel awful that she was in such bad shape that she lost kids. She did not retain her placenta so even if she had some selenium issues they weren’t bad. 

If you have the kids, I'd suggest getting one of the livers tested for a mineral panel. You can freeze the liver and send it to Michigan State yourself. That would give you a definitive answer on the minerals. They test for about a dozen. If you need help finding the forms on their website, let me know, and I can help tomorrow. You can refrigerate the kids while you think about whether you want to send all three livers. Or just cut the livers out of all of them and freeze them. 

Maggie said:

No one has had color loss in their coats and I have a few black and dark red goats who have not lost any color. I am having the most problems with one goat. She seems to have both internal and external parasites. On top of that she kidded today, 6 days early, to stillborn triplets. This is the very first time I e ever had a dead kid. Thanks to you though and reading your book I was able to be reassured by the fact that they seem to have been dead for sometime now and there was nothing I could have done today to make a difference. I just feel awful that she was in such bad shape that she lost kids. She did not retain her placenta so even if she had some selenium issues they weren’t bad. 

I don’t have any results back yet but I was wondering if it is a copper issue, how will I know they’re getting better or enough and how quickly. They have received 4g copper bolus about every 3 months since we have been here but I am still seeing some of the things youve described like hair loss on nose and ears. I don’t want to over dose them but if I should be seeing faster results I can give more. I know I’ll know more once I get the results back. The attached lab report is from a buck I lost in December. I’ve just included his mineral panel. 

With no color loss in the goat's hair, I would NOT suspect copper deficiency.

If a goat has hair loss on its nose and you give it copper, you should see the hair grow back in 2-3 weeks. If it does not grow back, then copper was not the problem. It is possible that a goat can rub off the hair on its nose on a hay feeder if it has something horizontal that could rub on the goat's nose. There is a photo gallery in my free copper course that shows you how fast the hair grows back on the nose of one goat after I gave her copper:

https://thriftyhomesteader.teachable.com/p/copper-deficiency/

The copper on the liver is perfect, so I'd be surprised if your goats are deficient in that mineral at this point. If he was getting 4 grams every three months, that looks like it was perfect for him.

Calcium is a little high and zinc is a little low, which sounds like the buck was eating alfalfa or peanut hay or something high in calcium. But that would not be an issue with the does because they need a high calcium diet.

Ok thank you that is reassuring. I’ve suspected zinc issues as well and just started adding a little zinc top dress so hopefully that’ll even things out a little. 

If your bucks are getting alfalfa, just stop feeding them alfalfa, and the zinc deficiency will correct itself. Bucks don't need alfalfa. My bucks that have started foaming at the mouth in the middle of winter when they get alfalfa will stop within a couple of weeks of going on pasture. I have never given them zinc supplements. It is always best if you can eliminate the antagonist when you are dealing with secondary mineral deficiencies.

Maggie said:

Ok thank you that is reassuring. I’ve suspected zinc issues as well and just started adding a little zinc top dress so hopefully that’ll even things out a little. 

Ok here are the mineral results from the necropsy on the doe. The copper levels had gone down since my bucks necropsy three months ago. Parasite overload was not observed and official cause of death was uterine infection.

Wow- uterine infection- did she have any signs of an infection? Fever, lethargy, not eating? Stinky discolored discharge? Or did you just find her? Sometimes they hide being sick soooo well that we miss it entirely =/ I was really expecting something else to show up. But also glad that you have an answer that is not concerning to the rest of your herd.

Her selenium is elevated- did you start supplementing it?

The copper has dropped but is still within normal range, so I wouldn't be too concerned about it. Just keep an eye on everyone's coat color.

I noticed the selenium too. She hadn’t had an extra selenium in a week or so but in the last month she had had extra selenium. Ive taken that off of my supplement list for now. Until the day she died she had been acting normally. That day she didn’t want to get up or eat or drink which is why I rushed her to the vet but it wasn’t enough unfortunately. She had really struggled since we moved. More than my others. She kept getting sick and her immune system just seemed to be lower than the others. I was happy to see that as far as stuff that would affect the others would go she seemed to be cleared. Hopefully this is the last of any lingering problems and everyone is on the path to best Health now. 

Oh goodness! I sure do hope so! You have really been through the ringer. 

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