March 4, 2013

DIY Vitamins & Minerals For Goats

One of our self-sufficiency goals is to feed our animals from our land. I've blogged about this previously, focusing on grains, feed rations, and protein:

Another area I've been working toward, has been growing our own vitamins and minerals. Ideally, animals should get these from a natural forage diet. Most soils, unfortunately, have become depleted over the years, so that foraging alone rarely meets their needs. Now, common practice is to feed scientifically formulated pellets, complete with protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Many goat owners also purchase vitamin and mineral supplements, and deficiencies are an ongoing topic on many a goat discussion list and forum. I've dealt with them too, and have gradually added items to my goats' diet. Currently I offer them Advanced Biological Concepts TS K Organic Mineral Mix, organic kelp meal, and baking soda free choice. They also get black oil sunflower seeds and chopped sweet potatoes or carrots with their feed, for added vitamins.

Always in my mind, however, is how I can provide the necessary vitamins and minerals myself. Because of that I have been researching how to grow my own vitamin and mineral supplements; things that I can either feed fresh or dry to use as a top dressing on their food. These are listed below. I won't say it's a complete list, but it's a start. Neither is it universal, I'm mostly just listing things I can grow or find in my area.

Vitamin A (& BetaCarotene) - sweet potatoes, carrots, greens (kale, turnip, mustard, dandelion, spinach, collards), butternut squash, dried herbs (parsley, basil, marjoram,dill, oregano), fresh thyme, cantaloupe. Also raw grape leaves.

B vitamins Goats can synthesize their own B vitamins, so that supplementation is not strictly necessary. I'm including them here as part of my original information. B vitamin deficiencies, if they do exist  are apparently more of a problem with goats fed a diet high in concentrates.)

B1 (thiamin): yeast extract, seeds (sesame, sunflower), dried sage, rosemary, thyme, and kudzu.

B2 (riboflavin): yeast extract, dried herbs (spearmint, parsley), wheat bran, sesame seeds, and kudzu.

B3 (niacin): yeast extract, bran (wheat & rice), and and kudzu.

B5 (pantothenic acid): bran (rice & wheat), sunflower seeds

B6 (Pyridoxine): bran (wheat & rice), dried herbs (garlic, tarragon, sage, spearmint, basil, chives, savory, rosemary, dill, oregano, and marjoram), seeds (sunflower, sesame), molasses, sorghum, bananas

B9 (Folate): yeast extract, dried herbs (spearmint, rosemary, basil, chervil, marjoram, thyme, parsley), sunflower seeds, greens (spinach, turnips, collard), cowpeas, broccoli, wheat germ, cantaloupe, bananas, endive, flax seeds

B12 (cobalamin): there are no plant sources for vitamin B12. However, goats can synthesize their own with cobalt. The only plant sources I've seen listed for cobalt are green leafy vegetables some herbs, with no specific details.

Vitamin C: (can also by synthesized by livestock) fresh thyme and parsley, greens (kale, mustard), broccoli, rose hips, cantaloupe, tomatoes, dried basil, rosemary, and citrus (my goats love chopped citrus rinds).

Vitamin D: sunshine

Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, dried herbs (basil, oregano, sage, parsley, thyme)

Vitamin K: dried herbs (basil, sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano), fresh herbs (parsley, basil), greens (kale, dandelion, collards, turnip, mustard, beet, Swiss Chard), broccoli, cabbage, carrots, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, figs

Calcium - Dried savory, celery seed, dried thyme, dried dill, dried marjoram, sage, oregano, spearmint, parsley, poppy seed, chervil, dried basil, comfrey, sesame seeds, flax seeds, raw turnip greens, Dandelion greens, Kale, Mustard Greens, amaranth leaves, collard greens, and kudzu. Also savory, spearmint, rosemary, chervil, fennel and coriander seed. Book: chamomile, chicory, cleavers, coltsfoot, horsetail, mustard, sorrel, plantain, willow.

Cobalt - is the precursor to vitamin B12 and goats can synthesize their own B12 if they get cobalt in their diet. I have not been able to find a specific list of goat acceptable foods that are rich in cobalt (i.e. vegan). Several places vaguely mention green leafy vegetables and pulses, but cobalt is usually found in animal foods, which goats do not eat. As with all minerals, plants can only take up what is available in the soil, which is why we're including cobalt in our remineralization program. My goats currently get their cobalt from their goat minerals.

Copper - sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, & squash seeds, Dried Basil, Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme, Savory, and Parsley. Also dried basil, coriander leaf, spearmint, fennel seed, and dill. Book: burdock, chickweed, chicory, cleavers, dandelion, fennel, garlic, horseradish, sorrel, yarrow.

Iodine - seaweed, especially kelp, also asparagus, cleavers, garlic.

Iron - Dried Thyme, dried Parsley, dried Spearmint, dried Marjoram, Cumin Seed, dried Dill, dried Oregano, dried Coriander, dried Basil, ground Turmeric, ground Savory, Anise Seed, Fenugreek Seed, dried Tarragon, dried Chervil, dried Rosemary, seeds (pumpkin, squash, sesame, sunflower, fenugreek, and fennel), and kudzu. Also bamboo, asparagus, blackberry, burdock, chicory, comfrey, dandelion, nettle, parsley, raspberry, rose, scullcap, strawberry, vervain, wormwood.

Magnesium - Bran (Rice, Wheat, and Oat), Dried Coriander, Spearmint, Dill, Sage (not for milking does), Basil, Savory, seeds (pumpkin, squash, watermelon Flax, Sesame, & sunflower), and molasses. Also parsley, fennel seed, marjoram, oregano, dill & thyme, carrot leaves, dandelion, hops, marshmallow, meadowsweet, mullein, oak, slippery elm, rose.

Manganese - dried ginger, dry spearmint, parsley, dried marjoram, wheat germ, bran (Rice, Wheat, and Oat), seeds (pumpkin, squash, sesame, and sunflower). Also basil, thyme, fennel, coriander, savory, oregano, dill, and bamboo.

Phosphorous - bran, wheat germ, seeds (pumpkin, squash, sesame, sunflower, and flax), chickweed, dill, golden rod, marigold. [Note: pregnant does need a particular calcium to phosphorous ratio to prevent hypocalcemia.]

Potassium - spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale, Collards. bananas, parsley, dill, basil, rice bran, molasses, seeds (squash, pumpkin, sunflower, watermelon). Also chervil, coriander leaves, spearmint, fennel seed, marjoram, ginger, and oregano, borage, carrot leaves, chamomile, couch grass, dandelion, elder, honeysuckle, meadowsweet, mullein, nettle, oak, peppermint, plantain, scullcap, wormwood.

Selenium - sunflower seeds, bran (wheat, oat, rice), garlic, chervil, fenugreek, ginger, and dried chervil, coriander, parsley, and dill seed.

Sodium - cleavers, clover, comfrey, dill, fennel, garlic, marshmallow, nettle, violet, woodruff

Zinc - wheat germ, seeds (pumpkin, squash, watermelon, sesame), and buckwheat. Dried herbs and seeds: chervil, basil, thyme, parsley, coriander, sage (not for milking does), savory, ginger, and seeds (dill, coriander, and fennel).

That's my preliminary list. Much of it I already grow, or have the potential to grow. Much of it I already feed to my goats. My goal is to grow more, and especially dry more, to feed during winter. I can't give you specific dosages other than to say that herbs used as top dressings to feed are usually given in amounts of teaspoons or tablespoons.

Lastly, here are several recommendations for more information. The first is a webpage. It's a useful resource in regards to herbs for goats:

Also, two books:

Find this and more in

5 Acres & A Dream The Book

Prepper's Livestock Handbook

How To Garden For Goats


Laura said...

Selenium is a bugger. If your soil is deficient, so will the plants you grow in it (as is true with all other minerals...).

I live in a severely deficient area for selinium. I haven't worried about the birds, but I do give Tang a vitamin/mineral supplement along with her psyllium.

Theresa said...

Don't know if this helps or not but they do have goat sized salt blocks ( the 5 pounders I think) with Iodine and ones with selenium and trace minerals. I try to keep an array of salt blocks out for everyone as it does promote water consumption, and at this time of year for us, always a good thing.

Leigh said...

Laura, we have a problem with selenium too and you're exactly right about the soil. Now that you mention it, I don't recall that it's on my soil analysis. Hmm, I need to look into that.

Theresa, thank you for mentioning the salt blocks. I started out with a mineral salt block, but later learned that goat owners preferred loose minerals because of goats' tongues (? something like that. I can't recall the exact reason). So I keep the loose minerals available. And I probably always will, just in case. :)

Quinn said...

A topic of interest, indeed. I feel like I'm flailing around in the dark when it comes to what may be needed and what may be missing and how much may be too much, when it comes to deliberately dosing with something like selenium.
My cashmere goats have several supplements available free-choice at all times (mineral block AND loose minerals, bicarb) and as much kelp powder as each goat will eat, 4-7 times/wk (I find it too expensive to waste in a feeder, but offer it by hand to each goat at least every other day). One thing I have learned over time is the importance of availability: any supplement may be ignored for weeks or months, then suddenly be consumed voraciously. Likewise, individual animals are on a different "schedule" of needs or wants, and unless I happen to be on the spot, I never know for sure who is eating which or how much.
I'll have to follow your links when I can sit down with a cup of tea and really dig in. Thanks for posting!

Farmer Barb said...

Hey, don't forget Blackcurrant for vitamin C. It is an easy shrub to grow and it will fruit if you have enough chill hours. I couldn't grow it well in Zone 10b, but here in zone 6, it LOVES it. The English would never have survived the scurvy without it. I'll send you a cutting!

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Leigh, what a fantastic post! So much time you put in, I will refer to it often. The best thing we ever did for our hgs was feed them our yogurt milk. We leave our cows milk in big barrels and let it sit. In a few days we have the most amazing pro bioitc filled concoction that is fed to them via large sewage pipes (clean ones) cut into half for troughs. We never have sick pigs!

Leigh said...

Quinn, I hear you. My observations have been the same, and it is indeed a puzzle that never seems to have a set answer. One of the things I've done with our pasture remineralization, is that when I plant the pasture, to plant a variety of herbs as well. I got that idea from Fias Co Farm website. Sepp Holzer mentions it as well. I'm thinking that ideally then, the goats can help themselves as needed.

Barb, thanks for mentioning the currents, and thanks for the offer! I didn't include it because I read that our summers are too hot for currents. That information will be useful to someone reading this, I know. Instead, I'm propagating rugosa roses. :)

Donna, thanks for the tip about the cultured milk for pigs! We're planning to get our first pigs this year and hopefully I'll have surplus goat milk for them. Raw milk does have the ability to transform itself into a healthy probiotic product. Thanks for the mention of the troughs too!

Renee Nefe said...

I'm sure that you and Dan are eating a much healthier diet as well.

Mary Ann said...

I learned a lot from this post, and am going to refer back to it in the future... thanks!

Susan said...

Perfect timing, Leigh. Thanks for all of your thorough research. A couple of questions - how much black oil sunflower seed do you feed the goats; and are the sweet potatoes cooked or raw? I'd like to provide more of their needs as well, as it makes sense both from cost and health aspects.

The Cranky said...

Interesting post; I find it serendipitous that so many of the goat's needs can be supplied by kudzu and that goats are the most effective and natural control for kudzu.

Leigh said...

Renee, that's so very true, we're all eating better!

Mary Ann, you're very welcome. :)

Susan, I've been giving about 1/2 cup of BOSS twice a day to pregnant does. Everybody else gets just a handful. I had a bumper crop of sweet potatoes, and usually give them raw, but I have to chop them up. I sometimes give them cooked potato skins though, and they love them either way!

Jacqueline, it's a fortunate arrangement! The goats will eat kudzu either fresh or dried, which is nice. I read too, that kudzu root can be dried, powdered, and used as a thickener like corn starch. I may have to give that one a try myself.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Extension agents and vets tell me the soil east of the Mississippi is totally depleted of selenium. Now I know why my sheep gobble up the sunflower seeds at the bird feeder, thanks, Michelle.

Rosalyn said...

Even though I'm not even close to owning my own goats yet, I found this post immensely interesting. And I am so fascinated to hear of the diffferent experiences with goats and kudzu, I'd be interested to know if some of the invasive plants that we have here would be edible and palatable for goats? It's like they're an excellent farm or homestead animal and little invasive plant eliminating miracle workers. :) Also, I'm sorry your zone is too hot for black currents. While most days I envy your ability to grow amazing things that would never flourish here in my 5b, I do so love black current jelly!

Leigh said...

Sandra, is it me, Leigh, you're calling Michelle? I haven't been sure if it was me or one of the commenters you've been addressing. :)
Selenium deficiency seems to be a common problem nation wide.

Rosalyn, I also can't grow gooseberries and rhubarb! I'd love to have those as well as currents. The information on a kudzu nutritional analysis was more vague than the other foods. Mostly researchers are focusing on its phytohormones and as an aid to curb alcohol cravings.

Hannah said...

Leigh- I may not have read all your info on minerals enough so I may have missed something on this, but have you used Glacial Rock Dust or Basaltic Volcanic powder? I have been using the GRD and have thought it improved my crops some, I've been reading good stuff about the BVP containing lots of trace minerals and just bought some to try this summer in my beds.

I've grown gooseberries, black currants, red currants, etc. and the most productive and easiest to pick, also the highest ORAC value of any native American fruit is Aronia, which grows in zones 3-9. It grows in clusters that hang from one stem and all the berries ripen at once, so I just go out and snap off a bag of berries on the stems then can sit around at night picking them off the stems and putting them in freezer bags. They are not so tasty fresh, though my son taught me to eat them with sweetened yogurt, but are great cooked. I wrote a post on them-

Leigh said...

Hannah, very interesting. I've never heard of either GRD or BVP. Basically though, I'm trying to get away from things I have to buy and especially pay shipping for. :)

I had to look up aronia. Wikipedia has a pretty good article on them and I was surprised they are a type of photinia. We may even have some growing around here.

WilliamKing said...


Mila said...

Awesome! In Chile it is impossible to get the loose or even block minerals, so I have been trying to get what they need via their diet. It looks like I am on the right track. Will definitely bookmark this page.