Copper and Selenium Supplementation for Goats

Before moving to our new farm in 2016, we regularly gave copper bolus and Bo-Se shots to our goats.  We haven’t had to since, but in general, this area is deficient in both and you will probably need to supplement at least copper.

Copper Bolus:
If breeding, I like to give copper one month before breeding and one month before kidding.  For us, that was July and January.  The rate is 1 gram per 22 pounds of goat body weight.  For a 75-pound adult, that would be 3.4 grams.  Copper toxicity is a serious issue so it is important to dose appropriately.  Use a jewelry scale that measures in grams.  This one is an improved version of what we use.  We buy the cattle sized Copasure and break each capsule open to weigh.  You’ll see goat sized capsules, but at 4 grams, those are too large for a standard sized Nigerian.  Proper dosing is critical.

The easiest method of administration is to put the copper in a favorite treat.  This isn’t necessarily ideal because the goats will chew on the rods some before they swallow, but it’s the method we always used with no noticeable ill effects.  Because goats are picky, I got tired of trying to remember which treat each goat liked and settled on this method:

Using a spoon, scoop out a tablespoon of peanut butter and wipe it on a small corner of bread.  Sprinkle the rods on the peanut butter, fold an equally small piece of bread over the peanut butter and offer this sandwich to your goat.  If said goat refuses the proffered treat, swipe the peanut butter onto your finger being careful to include the copper and, using a helper to hold the goat, wipe it on the top of its tongue.  The peanut butter is sticky and they have no choice–mostly, there are special goats who can avoid even this–but to swallow the copper.  Nearly all of my goats take the sandwich, probably realizing the futility of resistance, but yearlings tend to be more resistant.

Signs of copper deficiency can mimic toxicity, but in general, for our area, if you see faded coats–blacks turning copper colored, for instance–along with a fish tail, as pictured here, you can reasonably diagnose copper deficiency.  It can take some experimenting to find the frequency of bolusing that is necessary for your herd in your particular area.  For us it was six months, but I’ve heard of people giving copper every three months.

There are some other options for copper supplementation.  We seem to be in a higher copper pocket of our region, but since moving we’ve gotten by using a high copper mineral that we highly recommend: New Country Organics Goat Mineral.  I plan on carrying this starting sometime in spring of 2019 and will send all kids home with a small bag.

We’ve had great results using that for the past two years, but as an experiment, I am switching in spring of 2019 to Thorvin kelp top-dressed with Fir Meadow Kop-Sel offered free choice instead of traditional minerals.  My goal is ever to work toward more natural husbandry so this will be an interesting experiment for our herd.

The 2017 kidding season was our first in our new place. It was also the first year we ever had live born kid losses. Between 2017 and 2018, we lost 16 kids and saw a reduced average litter size of one kid, down from three to two kids per doe. To say it was devastating would be a complete understatement. We searched for answers, contacted state vets and changed every single aspect of our management. It corrected by the 2019 season, but the conclusion was selenium toxicity.

Without clear signs of selenium deficiency, I don’t recommend supplementing via Bo-Se or selenium paste/gel, even though it is a standard practice in our area. Should you or your vet determine a need, Bo-Se is the method we have used in the past at a rate of 1ml per 40 pounds of body weight. If deficient, a good starting point would be every six months.

If you’re supplying a good quality loose mineral, these are often the only extra mineral considerations you need to take.