Goat Minerals 101

I’ve been waiting to post about this topic, simply because it is one of the most complicated ones! Please note that this blog post only contains some of the basics, and minerals are such an individualized topic that I highly recommend reaching out to me directly for a more in-depth conversation.

DISCLAIMER: Mineral needs vary from country to country (I speak for the U.S.A), and while most other countries are similar, be sure to evaluate your goats as individuals.

Every goat needs minerals; every human needs minerals; every living creature needs minerals! While wild forages do contain minerals that they have absorbed through the soil, it is unlikely that goats will consume enough of these plants (or the right plants, with roots that draw up the most minerals) to supply all of their mineral needs. Additionally, most areas of the world are deficient in certain minerals, so the soil will not be nutrient-dense enough, even if the goats are eating a diet of 100% good forage. Thus, the need for supplemental minerals arises. When goats are not consuming proper minerals and quantities, they show physical mineral deficiency signs that can be easy to spot if you know what to look for.

There are many mineral supplements for goats and other livestock, so it’s important to know which to choose.

The Baseline:

All goats should have access to a high-quality, loose mineral, free choice & 24/7. Now, that’s a lot of words—here’s what they mean!

Loose mineral – While, for many years, livestock producers have offered mineral supplements in a block form, there are many reasons that blocks may not be suitable for goats. Unlike cows with their sandpaper-like tongues, goats have very soft tongues; they cannot lick all that they need from a block. Additionally, most blocks have very high salt contents. As I will describe more in-depth later, salt is needed in a mineral to make it palatable and regulate consumption, but if there is too much salt, it regulates the consumption too heavily, and the goats will mostly be consuming salt, with barely any minerals. A loose mineral has a sand-like, granulated texture.

Free choice 24/7 – Free choice means exactly what it sounds like; the goats can eat however much they want, whenever they want! Goats are amazing at self-regulation; they consume only the amount of minerals that they require. As owners, it is tough to know exactly how much of the mineral your goat needs, so let your goat do the work! Loose minerals are formulated to be safe when given free-choice. Because there is added salt, the goats will fill up on salt long before they over-consume minerals, so overdose is not a concern in a correctly formulated loose mineral. Even without salt, the goats should do a fine job of self-regulation—but good loose minerals are extra safe due to how they are formulated. Loose minerals should be kept available 24/7 in a dry, covered area.

High-quality – This is the most important thing I will mention in this post. Having a high-quality loose mineral is important, as each brand varies with the form and amount of each mineral. In order to determine if a mineral is high-quality, one must understand how to read a mineral guaranteed analysis and ingredients list!

What to look for in a guaranteed analysis:

Everything listed on a guaranteed analysis is important, but today I’m just going to talk about a few quick things that—based on my experience and knowledge—you can look at to judge the quality of a loose mineral right off the bat!

(NOTE: guaranteed analyses usually report minerals in the form of “ppm” or “mg/kg.” These two are equal to one another, but I will be describing minerals in ppm; and occasionally by percentage)

COPPER: A good goat mineral should have at least 1,500ppm of copper in it. As high as 2,000ppm may be seen in some, which often allows owners to refrain from extra copper supplementation. A mineral with 1,000-1,500ppm copper may still require additional supplementation via copper boluses depending on the goat.

ZINC: There should be 3-4 times more zinc than there is copper, so if a goat mineral has 1,800ppm copper, it should have 5,400-7,200ppm zinc.

SELENIUM: There should never be less than 20ppm of selenium in a mineral. 30-80ppm is optimal.

SALT: There should be no more than 20-25% salt content in a mineral; staying in the low-mid teens would be ideal. Salt makes a mineral palatable and prevents over-consumption, but too much salt will hinder the consumption of the other minerals, and your ‘loose mineral’ will be nothing more than a ‘mineralized salt.’

What to look for in the ingredients list:

The ingredients list should be diverse. Look for multiple forms of minerals. Instead of just “copper sulfate” look for words like “complex” and “amino acid.” For example, for zinc content I want to see zinc sulfate, zinc amino acid complex, zinc chloride – all different usable forms of the same mineral! By having different types of minerals with varied absorption rates, the goat’s body will be able to use each mineral more productively.

Identifying mineral deficiencies:

Learning to identify mineral deficiencies is a skill that takes time to hone. There are so many deficiencies and so many different symptoms, it would be too difficult to list them all! But there are some basic ones that are fairly easy to spot, and that’s the best place to get started. So, we are going to discuss what I call “The Vital Three.” The three minerals which have the easiest deficiencies to spot and are some of the most important ones for goats are Copper, Selenium, and Zinc. All three of these deficiencies appear in the coat, body, and in reproductive health.

NOTE: These symptoms are not always caused by the following mineral deficiencies, nor does each mineral deficiency come with all the symptoms on the list. It varies from goat-to-goat, this is just a generalized list.

COPPER:

• Fishtail (tail hair tip balding, making a “V” shape)

• Black color turning red/rusty colored

• Dull coat color 

• Rough or wiry coat

• Hair curling up at tips or becoming curly and rough

• Balding around the eyes or bridge of nose

• Susceptibility to parasites & general unthriftiness

  • Anemia (in severe cases)

SELENIUM:

• Turned down/crooked/weak tails

• Leg/joint weaknesses

• Weak pasterns/slipper feet

• Weak/Floppy kids

• Infertility

• Miscarriages

• Retained Placenta

  • Still Births

ZINC:

• Flaky/Dry Skin

• Poor coat condition/Hair loss

• Poor hoof health

• Low libido/infertility

• Balding around eyes or face

• Increased susceptibility to external parasites

• Joint Issues

Please see below for a few photo examples of deficiencies (unfortunately I do not have photos of all the signs, please contact me for a mineral evaluation of YOUR goat’s symptoms!)

A fishtail example. Notice the “V” or “U” shape at the tip of the tail.
A mild fishtail – showing splayed hair without the common “V” shape.
This shows the bald center of the tail that may be present in a fishtail.
This shows the rough, curly neck hair that can be caused by copper deficiencies. The second photo is the same goat, one month after a copper bolus, completely recovered.
This photo shows a very classic “selenium tail.” The tail begins with a slight angulation or “crook” in it, then it progresses to what is shown in this image (similar to a backwards “L” shape), and finally (in severe cases) the tail will become completely weak, with the tip facing downwards, and “floppy.”
An example of severely weak pasterns; notice the hoof angle is bent, not upright.
The same goat – 12 hours after selenium supplementation.

So, if you are already giving a high quality loose mineral 24/7, and your goats still show mineral deficiency symptoms, how can you fix it? Well, this is where additional supplementation comes into play! There are two types of deficiencies: primary deficiencies and secondary deficiencies. Primary deficiencies are simple, they occur when the goat is simply not consuming enough minerals. Secondary deficiencies are more difficult because they involve antagonists. There are many mineral antagonists which bind to certain minerals and prevent proper absorption. Some of these antagonists are: Calcium, Molybdenum, Iron, and Sulfur. These may be present in hard water (often well water), and in some forages such as alfalfa (it takes a lot of alfalfa to cause issues, don’t be afraid of this important supplement). When there are antagonists in the diet, most loose mineral supplements are not suitable alone, and extra supplements are needed. There are so many different supplements – some in the form of slow-release boluses, oral gels, free choice offerings, and even injections. Each type of mineral supplement has a specific use, so you have to work with a mentor to decide what the best choice is. A note about supplementation which is exceptionally important is to make sure you supplement only as-needed, and constantly evaluate your goats to make sure they really do need supplemental minerals. Sometimes, when we notice a deficiency, and we start on a regimen to supplement a mineral, we can get carried away and continue this supplement routinely even when the goat no longer needs it. Always evaluate your goat’s symptoms before each and every supplementation, and adjust your plan based on their needs. Mineral overdoses, albeit fairly uncommon, can happen, and sometimes our worries and care can turn into a bad situation. One goat may need mineral supplements for life, and another may only need a few doses of a supplement before returning to a normal, healthy state. Don’t forget how individualized every single goat’s mineral needs are! Listen to your goats, observe closely, and always consult a mentor until you gain enough experience to know how to do it yourself!

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet, nor am I a licensed professional. I am in no way a “goat expert” and my opinions are only that of personal experiences, and my insights shared are not medical treatment suggestions, care suggestions, or any directions for raising goats at all. I am simply sharing my own personal opinions. Any and all changes to your goats’ health regimen, care, etc. should be approved by a veterinary professional or licensed professional. I also believe that every goat owner has their own way of doing things, so just as my opinions are my own, and cannot apply to anyone else, your opinions are also regarding your individual goats, and I welcome you to share them in a kind, constructive manner. Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon Affiliate Links, from which I will earn a commission.

29 thoughts on “Goat Minerals 101

    1. Hi Diane! As I said in the post, we as owners will never know how much of the mineral our goats need, so they need to be allowed to self-regulate and eat it as they please. If a certain amount is top-dressed only, they may eat too little or too much. Free choice is the way to go!

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      1. Daniel, that’s the problem I have also. I’m in Canada and have not been able to buy Sweetlix but I tried ManaPro only to have the same results

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  1. I have tried so many different brands of loose minerals it’s ridiculous. They just won’t eat them. After a few days the minerals are hard in the dish and I throw them out. This last kind I tried is HighBoot from TSC, no luck so I have started sprinkling a bit on their feed once every couple weeks. We have super high iron in our well water and have trouble with copper deficiency. I have given copper bolus once (against the advice of our vet) because all 5 goats had really obvious fish tails

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  2. I replied to Diane instead of you…oops
    I am in Canada and have not been able to buy Sweetlix. I have tried ManaPro which I can get but had the same problem. I tried a salt block and I saw a few tiny teeth marks in it. That’s why I bought the HiBoot salt mineral that I’m using now

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    1. Marlene – thanks for letting me know you are in Canada, minerals are definitely different there; the best one I have found in Canada is this one: https://www.masterfeeds.com/nutrition/ritemins-ranch-n-range-beef-mineral-salt/ I highly recommend trying it. If you can source any kelp meal, that is good too – and I’ve never seen a goat dislike it! In fact, it may help them become more accustomed to eating other loose minerals. Don’t be discouraged about Manna Pro – it is a common thing that goats don’t like that one. Make sure the minerals are refreshed daily (run your fingers through it, top it with new stuff). It’s also important that YOU show interest in it; now I may sound silly, but run your fingers through it, bend down and sniff it, pretend there is something really cool in that feeder. Goats are nosy, and if they feel that you are interested in something, they just might take to it (especially if they see you as their herd leader). Sometimes they need to get accustomed to new flavors – you can even take a pinch of the minerals and put it in their mouths so they can taste it – if you do this consistently they may develop an appetite to it. Another option is to find a bowl or a feeder (it has to be the same every time) and bring the goats treats in it daily for a few days – with no minerals. Once the goats seem excited at the sight of this feeder or bowl, try one day putting a layer of minerals in the bottom and top it off with just a few treats (so when they pick at the treats, they get some minerals too). If they happily eat those treats, the next time try bringing out minerals in the bowl WITHOUT any treats. See if they lick it. All you need is a couple licks, it’s perfectly acceptable! If they do lick it, spend one more day bringing the bowl out to them and making a big deal of it – and then after that, instead of bringing it back with you, leave the bowl somewhere in their enclosure/barn.

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      1. Thank you, I will see if the feed store can get me some of that brand. I will try your suggestions with crumbled up arrowroot cookies 😊

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      2. I finally found the analysis for the TM HighBoot Mineral I have here. THis is copied and pasted from their website. What do you think?

        TM Hi-Boot
        High Copper Zinc
        Trace Mineralized
        Salt for Cattle
        and Horses
        20 kg Block
        25 kg Bag
        0962
        0961
        0962
        0961
        Formulated to provide zinc, iron, manganese, copper, iodine
        and cobalt, uniformly blended with granulated salt for free choice
        feeding to cattle and horses in areas with particular deficiencies in
        copper, manganese and zinc. At a free choice intake of 30 grams
        per day, this salt will provide 40-60% of the trace minerals
        required in your animal’s diet.
        Dark
        Brown
        EAST WEST
        Salt (NaCl) minimum 96.5% 95.5%
        Zinc (Zn) actual 7500 mg/kg 12000 mg/kg
        Manganese (Mn) actual 5000 mg/kg 10000 mg/kg
        Copper (Cu) actual 2500 mg/kg 4000 mg/kg
        Iron (Fe) actual 1600 mg/kg 1600 mg/kg
        Iodine (I) actual 70 mg/kg 200 mg/kg
        Cobalt (Co) actual 40 mg/kg 60 mg/kg

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      3. So the issue with this is the salt content being at 95%, which makes this a salt, not a loose mineral. So it will supply mostly salt to your goats’ diet, which is fine, a separate salt source doesn’t hurt, but you need a loose mineral to go along with it.

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    2. Have your looked into International Stock Food’s goat mineral? I really like it. I mix it equal parts of kelp from Bio-Ag and International’s Superlac supplement.

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  3. Hi-
    How soon after making changes to diet/supplements would changes be visible regarding deficiencies? I just recently realized that alfalfa hay might be our main problem??? I use a filter on our well water (calcium deposits left behind, sulfur smell some times of the year, like when we moved in) and I gave copper bolus and selenium/vit e gel two months ago. Coats are looking a little better and famacha is much better, but a few goats still have fish tails and my doe-in-milk has a tail like the one you pictured in the selenium section. She also hasn’t come into heat like the other does this fall. I provide a loose mineral from a local dairy and it fits all the criteria (along the upper measures) you mentioned. Sometimes I see them eat it, and other times not. I keep it as fresh as I can. I have been topping my milker’s milking ration (the grain ration is the recipe you have on your blog- switched to it slowly a week 1/2 ago), but it looks like topping with a teaspoon of mineral might not be the greatest idea?
    So, because I’ve seen them eating the minerals, I’m supposing we still have an antagonist. The only thing I can think of is the alfalfa hay. I’m getting some grass hay soon to see if it helps, but I want a realistic outlook of how soon I might see improvement.
    I originally got alfalfa hay because my doe-in-milk had pink milk and one of the kid wethers was not gaining weight and needed intervention twice when he went off feed. The hay helped. But now I also feed alfalfa pellets in the grain ration.
    This is my first year having goats. What a fun adventure it has been. I just want to do right by them! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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    1. Tails take the longest to fix. When the coat and overall health improves, I take it as a win! If your goat has a selenium tail you will need to supplement with the selenium gel more frequently. Definitely try grass hay, but alfalfa pellets are good to keep some alfalfa in the diet in moderation.

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    1. It depends on the mineral deficiency(s) you are working with and the severity. After a copper bolus, results start to show within 1 month minimum, usually about 3 months. Most improvements with zinc deficiency will take 3 weeks-3 months; selenium is a bit different and in kids born deficient or cases of deformities, you may notice improvement within 12-24 hours. Chronic selenium deficiency symptoms such as a ‘selenium tail’ may take 6 months or more to fully resolve.

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      1. Thank you. I gave copper bolus and selenium/vitamin e gel about two months ago, and just haven’t seen a big improvement in their tails, but had in the coats of a couple of them.
        I also hadn’t realized one of my does could be extra deficient in selenium until I saw this post and the “selenium tail”. I was just assuming her tail looks different. A deficiency could also be why she hasn’t shown signs of being in heat like the others, right?

        As for fixing what we’ve got going on, I use a filter for our well water since there are definitely deposits left (calcium, iron, sometimes we get the sulfur smell but not always). I try my best to keep their loose minerals fresh, but they don’t always eat it. I was assuming they don’t need it, but their appearance seems to say otherwise. Famacha scores have improved since copper bolus though, so that’s another good sign I guess?
        The only other thing I’m wondering about is if switching from alfalfa hay to grass hay would help even more. I have been feeding alfalfa hay because one of my kid wethers had gone off feed a couple times and after intervention he needed to gain weight, and my doe in milk (the one with possible selenium deficiency) had pink milk that wasn’t mastitis. The change in diet helped them both, but could it maybe now be causing other problems?

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  4. My pregnant does have started to get fish tails and the bridge of their noses are bald like you described. Can I copper bolus them now?

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  5. Hi!
    I have just recently found your site and wish I would’ve found it 10 months ago when we got our first goats 🙂 I appreciate all the sound advice and information. I’ve been looking for a good quality mineral that supplies everything you have listed – we’re currently feeding Manna Pro and for months what seemed as a disinterest in their minerals, has changed, they are really pounding the minerals the last couple of weeks.
    I’ve come across Premier 1 – Goat Trace Mineral Premix. Suggested mix the 5 lb bag with a 50 lb bag of livestock salt. I’m interested in your thoughts on the guaranteed analysis – is this Cu and Zn way too much??
    Guaranteed Analysis
    Calcium (Ca), min 3.5%
    Calcium (Ca), max 5.5%
    Sulfur (S), min 11.00%
    Cobalt (Co), min 600 ppm
    Selenium (Se), min 990 ppm
    Iron (Fe), min 1,000 ppm
    Iodine (I), min 6,000 ppm
    Manganese (Mn), min 16,000 ppm
    Copper (Cu), min 50,000 ppm
    Copper (Cu), max 55,000 ppm
    Zinc (Zn), min 245,000 ppm

    Ingredients: Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Mineral Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Manganous Oxide, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Sodium Selenite, Ferrous Sulfate, Cobalt Sulfate.
    Limestone is used as a carrier for calcium.

    I appreciate your thoughts and opinion.

    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Robin! Premier 1’s is a Premix – this means it is meant to be mixed with salt, and so the guaranteed analysis only seems high in certain minerals now, but it will lower once you add salt. However, I do not know what the guaranteed analysis looks like once the salt is added – you would need to ask the company if they have an adjusted GA for once the salt has been added. I am not a fan of premixes in general, though. I highly recommend you sign up for my natural goat care academy for complete mentorship, and we can discuss your goats’ individual needs and figure out the best mineral for their needs, your location, and availability-wise!!

      All the best!

      ~ Hannah

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  6. Hi Hannah,

    Thank you so much for reply. That makes complete sense. I think I will steer clear of the pre-mixes.

    Funny you mention the academy, I was interested in signing up. I’ll make sure to do that today. I have a couple things going on with my boys – in fact, the vet is coming today for one that is losing clumps of hair – mostly along his spine. I suspect mites or lice but odd the other two aren’t exhibiting the same. I’ll head over and sign-up, then you and I can chat more 🙂

    Thank you, again!

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