January 5, 2015

Tweaking the Goat Minerals

Helen & Daphne

When I bought Helen and Daphne, I asked their previous owner what she had been feeding them. I always ask this question when I buy goats, because I want to make as gradual a transition in their diet as possible. She mentioned that she had been sprinkling their feed with Pat Coleby's mineral lick. When she told me her story, I was convinced I needed to try it too.

Besides the two Kinders she had two Saanans from a local goat dairy. She liked them but began to have problems with their hair falling out. When veterinary suggestions helped only nominally, she decided to try Pat Coleby's recipe. She sprinkled it on their food and their coats began to grow back. She ran out and stopped, and they lost fur again. She made and fed more, and it grew back again. Her goats had beautiful coats. That was all the convincing I needed.

Bunny & Lily

The recipe is in Pat's book, Natural Goat Care, but also around the internet, so hopefully I'm not violating any copyright by sharing it. Her instructions make a 37 pound batch, so I've quartered that to make 9.25 pounds.
  • 6.25 pounds powdered dolomite*
  • 1 pound sulfur powder
  • 1 pound copper sulfate powder
  • 1 pound seaweed meal (I use Thorvin kelp)

Mix well (dust mask recommended because it's all powders). Topdress feed with about 1/2 teaspoon (2 - 3 grams) daily. May also be left out free choice. Also recommended is keeping kelp available free choice, especially for dairy goats.

California AKA Clark

I put an asterisk (*) by the dolomite because I actually use dolomitic limestone. Dolomite is supposedly extremely common, but I'll be darned if I can find it. Hoegger carries it, but it's pricey (about $2 per pound) and often backordered. In her book, Coleby states that dolomitic limestone can be substituted. I can find this at the local nursery for about $4 per 50 pound bag. Note that it must be dolomitic limestone, not calcitic. The difference is the calcium and magnesium ratio, which must be twice the calcium to magnesium to be of benefit. Powdered is preferred to granular. My goats actually lick it up from the bottom of their feeders.

Gruffy, Randy, & Waldo

I buy the sulfur and copper sulfate from Alpha Chemicals. Their prices are excellent and so is their customer service. (They also sell ammonium chloride which is used to prevent urinary calculi in male goats, and citric acid, a necessity for making mozzarella!). I buy my kelp from Seven Springs Farm in Virginia. Again, excellent prices and customer service. Even with shipping the cost for a 50 pound bag is more reasonable than anywhere else I've been able to find.

While reading Pat's book about the lick, I happened to see the section on boron. It was the symptoms of boron deficiency that caught my eye - creaking knees. My two oldest goats (Surprise and Gruffy), in particular, had this. Since they get a loose goat mineral (Sweetlix Meatmaker Goat Mineral), a deficiency didn't occur to me. I thought the creaking knees and slowing down were due to their getting older. What I didn't realize was that my loose mineral mix doesn't contain boron. Even though we've been including boron in our pasture remineralization program, not all areas have been improved yet. But, within a couple of days of receiving the boron (as Borax), their behavior changed considerably - they went from plodders to prancers! What a difference! They get 1/2 teaspoon sprinkled on their feed once a week.


In my mineral feeders I keep free choice Thorvin kelp, the Sweetlix, and baking soda. Now that I've cut back on grain my goats rarely touch the baking soda. They don't eat much of the Sweetlix anymore, either. Because I feed Chaffhaye, they do eat a lot of kelp (alfalfa being goitrogenic). The other thing I continue to give them is my own homegrown vitamin and mineral mix. They get a handful on top of their feed once a day.

All in all, I'm very happy with the condition of my goats. Coats are thick and soft, with no bald tail tips. I'll keep the mineral blend available but it's not disappearing as quickly any more, so this may be the right combination for us.


Debby Riddle said...

Thanks for this Leigh, I love your informative, well researched posts. Clark is looking well, makes me happy:)

Anonymous said...

Leigh, great and informative post. We haven't kept goats for a few years now, partially because our pastures need work and partially because we were keeping hair goats and were considering dairy goats as a replacement. I'll no where to look for more information in the future. I noticed that you keep kinders and nubians. Do you prefer one to the other? Just curious as these are the two breeds we have been looking at.

Leigh said...

Debby, Clark is doing very well. He has the best coat of them all and he still has that sweet, mellow personality. :) He and Gruffy bunk down together at night, the two little guys, keeping each other warm.

Matt, I'm planning to replace my remaining Nubians with Kinders this year. I only got Nubians to make Kinders (with my Pygmy buck) but that's pretty much been a bust. Dan and I definitely prefer the Kinder personality to the Nubian. When you add that to the facts that Kinders produce just as much milk, more kids, but eat only half as much as Nubians, plus are dual purpose (meat and milk) well, the Kinders just make better sense on a homestead, especially a small one like ours. If you have any questions or would like other information, just ask. I can point you toward some great resources.

Kat said...

Chaffhaye and kelp make great goats! I used to sprinkle minerals on my feed, as well, but I've seen a couple cases where animals have died from mineral overdoses, especially copper. Now I'm back to free-choice minerals. No noticeable health-change in either direction, but I don't worry so much.

Anonymous said...

I've been slack on delivering our minerals (we too follow Pat Coleby's book) and Miss Anna is balding in random places. I shall be a much better goatherdess and make sure to dose their minerals every day. :) I'll add some bicarb too as our goats don't get as much browse as they would like and do get a lot of grains and lucerne. LOVE your goat tips. It's given me so very many ideas and so many tips. Thanks.

Mama Mess said...

That is very interesting about the boron. My old girl Tulip has had creaky knees for years! So you just buy borax from the grocery, in the laundry aisle and sprinkle it on their feed? I bought some kelp with lots of excitement, but mine won't touch it. I've left it out for weeks and they want nothing to do with it. I keep Manna Pro goat mineral out free choice and they love it. I also keep baking soda out. I've tried to hand feed them the thorvin kelp and they make the yucky face and spit it out every time. I have no idea why!

Farmer Barb said...

Funny about the boron! I have been using Gardens Alive catalog's Fruit Trees Alive (cornball name) on my raspberries and bush fruit. The boron is required for the fruit to have a fully developed flavor. I tried leaving it out of half a row, just to try it and we could all taste the difference. Maybe there is something to it.

Of course, I am not going to ask you how your goats taste with the boron...

Leigh said...

Kat, it sounds like you've got the right mineral regimen for you and your goats! Your comment reminds me of something I should have mentioned about the copper in the lick. Copper can be toxic in excess and I've read of folks who've killed their goats by feeding them copper. According to Gary Pfalzbot (The Jolly German) dolomite is an antidote for copper poisoning. Those who've read Pat Coleby's book have similar information.

Jessie, thank you! I'm an avid collector of information plus a teacher at heart. :)

the Goodwife, sounds like Tulip needs boron. Yes, just buy 20 Mule Team Borax from the laundry aisle at the grocery store. I give half a teaspoon on Sundays (once a week). I noticed a difference within days.

About the kelp, your goats may not need the iodine. Goats seem to know what they need and they may get enough from the Manna Pro.

Barb, I'm not at all sure about that! LOL I did wonder what the goats would think of the taste but they gobble it right down. If there's something in there they don't like, they leave it in the bottom of the pan. :)

Frank and Fern said...

Great information, Leigh. After we eliminated feed corn from our grain ration, I noticed the goats consume more minerals. They have access to a standard loose goat mineral we get from the feed store. I know we still have a ways to go before we can eliminate store bought feed, but your articles give me more to think about every time you publish them. Thank you very much.


PioneerPreppy said...

I wonder if they make a recipe to slow down wool growth on sheep?

Bag End Gardener said...

If I come back as a goat in my next life I want to be part of your herd :}

Interesting about the minerals though, I've been taking magnesium sulphate for the past year to help with joint problems and it's made a staggering difference (and helped me avoid surgery).

Leigh said...

Fern, thank you. Very interesting about the corn. I'm still buying quite a bit of feed too, but having the goal to grow all our own really prompts me to do the research. Because of it I've learned a lot! I'm glad the information is of interest to others. :)

PP, LOL. Now that would be something!

Jayne, aw, I don't know about that, LOL. This time of year they're all bored with the lack of variety in their forage and browse. I have a couple of goats that complain continually about it.

Minerals are amazing little things, aren't they? So seemingly insignificant but can make all the difference in health. So glad you figured out what you need for your joints. Doing that is a huge step!

Anonymous said...

love the pics

Anonymous said...

Leigh, Thanks for the information about the goat breeds. My wife is leaning more toward the Kinders. I'm thinking the same way. Is the butterfat content similar?

Matt H.

P.S. I have tried to get this to post my name instead of my URL. I have yet to figure this out since I do not blog with blogger. So I apologize for that, don't want you to think I am spamming. I have sincerely been enjoying your blog.

Leigh said...

Country Wife, thanks!

Matt, Nubian milk contains about 5% butterfat or higher. Kinder milk contains about 7%, sometimes higher. Individuals vary, of course, but many Kinders produce a gallon of milk or more per day, and often for longer than Nubians.

Not sure about the name versus URL for comments, but I'm glad for your comments. I enjoy your blog too!

Anonymous said...

I think you have a math error in your mineral recipe. You need 6.25 Dolomite for one fourth of Pat's formula. Your recipe would then add up 9.25 pounds of minerals

Leigh said...

Tracy, good eyes! I'm amazed that no one, including myself, missed that all this time. I've corrected the dolomite amount, which should be 6.25 pounds. Actually, I've altered the formula a bit now. I read through Coleby's other recommendations on amounts for individual minerals, and now use 1 part copper, 2 parts sulphur, and 4 parts dolomite. I omit the kelp since that's always available free choice.

Ms.Dig said...

Hi Leigh love your blog! Do you offer your goats a selenium salt in addition to this mix?

Leigh said...

I don't do anything special for selenium even thought we are in a deficient area. It's a nutrient in bran and sunflower seeds, which my goats get daily, plus in the goat mineral mix that I buy and leave out free choice. I give newborns a bit of selenium/vitamin E paste, but that's about it.

whisperingsage said...

folks, in the 1940's William Albrecht, the father of soil minerals, found that US soils were 40% deficient in minerals. In the 1990's, another test was done showing the US was 85% deficient in soil minerals. As we harvest the crops, we carry the minerals off. If we don't replace them, we won't have them. Our plants need 60 minerals to make a fully nutritional crop for us and our animals. The standard fertilizer is just NPK. If we add dolomite (Ca/Mg ) we do much better. Limestone also has all the minerals (60) but in smaller doses than I would prefer. However, using dolomite and limestone on my garden last year, I had NO tomato hornworms, meaning the plant was able to defend itself, just like Michael Asterra said. www.soilminerals.com. I also had loads of lady bugs last year. I usually have some, but I had loads. The ideal soil is 68% calcium, 12-20% magnesium, and the rest in trace minerals.

Leigh said...

Whisperingsage, what else can I say but Amen! Soil remineralization is something Dan and I have been slowly working on over the years. We've had detailed soil tests done and been working toward healthier soil. Dolomitic limestone is one of our key amendments. Like you, we've found it makes a big difference.