Goats and copper deficiency

copper deficiency and goats

Knowledge of goat nutrition has changed drastically in the last two decades. Twenty years ago, goats were lumped into the same category as sheep, and most people believed they didn’t need copper. Ten years ago, most vets realized goats needed copper, but they thought that deficiency was impossible if you were feeding a commercial goat grain and providing a free choice mineral. Today, we know that copper deficiency can cause a long list of symptoms, from cosmetic to life threatening.

Symptoms of copper deficiency

copper deficient goat
The rusty colored coat is the most obvious symptom of copper deficiency in this goat that should be solid black. But he also has very little hair on his tail, and he hasn’t completely shed his winter coat. He is underweight because he is not dealing well with internal parasites.

The earliest signs of copper deficiency are a faded coat, fish tail (balding tail tip), and losing hair on the face, especially around the eyes or the bridge of the nose. A black goat turns a rusty color; red goats turn gold; gold goats turn cream; and cream goats turn white. A goat may also fail to shed its winter coat in a timely manner.

If left untreated, a copper-deficient goat will start to have fertility problems. A buck may not settle does (get them pregnant). A doe may not come into heat or may have silent heats. She may get pregnant but abort within a few weeks. Or she may give birth to kids that are too premature to survive.

Goats may also appear to be anemic. A copper deficient goat will have more trouble dealing with a small load of internal parasites than a goat that is not deficient.

In severe cases, they may have bowed legs or swayback, and some may wind up with spinal injuries. Ultimately, a severely copper deficient goat will die.

copper deficiency in goats
This goat has lost almost all of the hair around his eyes. He does not have gray hair there; it’s his skin that you’re seeing.

To get an idea of how common some of these symptoms are, you can see the responses to the question about symptoms on the copper survey I conducted in 2016.

Of 570 respondents, 63 did not see any symptoms of copper deficiency in their goats.

The balding tail tips and loss of color in the coat are the most common symptoms because many people now recognize that as a symptom of copper deficiency and treat their goats before they begin to exhibit more severe symptoms. (The total adds up to more than 100% because most people checked multiple symptoms.)

copper survey spreadsheet

Causes of copper deficiency

Primary copper deficiency occurs when a goat doesn’t consume enough copper. This is more likely if the owner is feeding plain grain rather than a commercial goat feed. However, not all goat feeds are created equal.

Years ago I spoke to a professor at Texas A&M who had done research on goat nutrition, and he suggested using a commercial goat feed with at least 35 ppm copper. Many brands have less than that, so you have to read the feed tag.

Goats should also have a free choice mixed mineral available, and it should have around 1500 ppm copper sulfate. Even though you provide as much copper as a goat needs, however, they can still wind up copper deficient. How?

Secondary copper deficiency means that a goat is consuming enough copper, but they are also consuming a large amount of a mineral that is a copper antagonist. That means that it binds with the copper, making it unavailable for the goat.

Sulfur, iron, molybdenum, and calcium are copper antagonists that are the most likely culprits. Sulfur, iron, and calcium can be found in well water. Sulfur makes the water stink like rotten eggs or a dirty dish rag. Iron turns sinks and bathtubs orange, and calcium leaves mineral deposits on fixtures.

In the survey, 215 said their well water was high in iron, 66 said it was high in sulfur, and 25 said that they lived within 25 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Emissions from a coal-fired power plant may leave sulfur deposits on the pasture. (Unfortunately, I did not ask about calcium in well water.) Alfalfa is high in molybdenum, so if goats are eating a diet high in alfalfa, copper deficiency can be a problem.

Diagnosing copper deficiency

Unfortunately, the most reliable test for copper deficiency is a liver biopsy, which is not really practical on a live goat. Blood tests are not reliable. That means you have to watch your goat for symptoms. It’s a good idea to supplement when you see the faded coat, fish tail, and balding on the face, before more serious symptoms develop.

Every now and then I hear someone say that regardless of how much they supplement, one particular goat still has a fish tail.  Note that if a goat lost the tip of its tail to frostbite or if it was bitten off by a pig, as happened here one time, they will always have a fishtail as hair won’t grow on the scar tissue. Also keep in mind that a goat will usually have at least two of these early symptoms, if not all three, when they’re copper deficient.

Treating copper deficiency

buck [no longer copper deficient]
This is the same buck as pictured above, but it’s two years later, and he is no longer copper deficient.

In the survey I conducted of 570 goat breeders, I learned that most of them prefer to treat copper deficiency with copper oxide wire particles (COWP), sometimes called copper boluses. Most dose at a rate of 1 gram of COWP per 20-22 pounds. This is higher than the dosage recommended on some of the copper boluses sold for goats. Sometimes people think that their goat can’t be copper deficient because they just gave it a bolus a couple of months ago. However, the goat could be deficient again if the dose was smaller.

These were the copper supplements used by the people who responded to the survey:

Frequency of using COWP will depend on your goats. If you have a high level of minerals in your well water like we do, you may have to give it to the goats every 3-4 months to avoid seeing faded coats, fish tails, and balding.

Those who don’t have as much of a problem with copper antagonists may only need to dose every six months or once a year. But the bottom line is to listen to your goats. Do not believe the one company that sells copper and claims that their brand lasts a year. This varies from goat to goat and farm to farm.

copper deficiency in goats

For more on the safety of copper oxide wire particles, check out this article, as well as Avoiding Copper Toxicity in Goats. Here is a video that shows you how we supplement with copper oxide wire particles. It is a myth that it must be given as a bolus. We’ve been providing COWP to our goats like this since I read a 2010 study that showed no difference between bolusing and mixing with feed. And liver tests confirm that this method works for our goats, which all have normal copper levels now.


Although there are injectable forms of copper, it is not ideal. When a goat lives in a state of chronic deficiency, it’s better if they consume supplements orally for a more sustained level in their system. Research has shown that 50% of minerals are peed out within 24 hours of being injected.

From personal experience, I can tell you that I’ve never lost a goat to copper deficiency when I’ve been using COWP. However, I lost a buck to copper deficiency three months after he was given an injection. His liver level was 14 when it should have been 25 to 150 ppm. All of our liver level tests on goats given COWP have been mid-range normal.

Because I know people who’ve had goats die from toxicity following injections of copper, I highly recommend that you discuss your herd’s nutritional needs with a knowledgeable veterinarian before supplementing with injectable minerals.

Avoiding copper deficiency

It’s always better if you can prevent a problem in the first place. So, what can you do to avoid copper deficiency in your goats?

  • If you have high mineral levels (calcium, iron, sulfur) in your well water —
    • Catch rain water for your goats.
    • Install a water treatment system that will reduce high mineral levels.
  • Avoid using goat minerals that have added molybdenum, which will bind with copper. This is often found in “sheep and goat” minerals.
  • Avoid feeding pure alfalfa as the only hay when no other forage is available. (Alfalfa is high in molybdenum.)
  • Do not add anything to your minerals, such as baking soda, kelp, diatomaceous earth, etc. because it can reduce the goats’ consumption of the minerals. Everything should be in its own dispenser so the goats can choose between them and consume only what they need, when they need it.
  • Use loose minerals rather than blocks or tubs because goats have small, soft tongues and may have trouble getting enough minerals from a block or tub in areas where they need a lot.
  • Provide goat minerals with at least 1700 ppm copper sulfate.
  • Feed goat grain with 35-45 ppm copper sulfate.

What if you’ve done all of these things, and you still think that your goats might have a problem with copper deficiency? Have a liver (or two or three) tested from a goat that died or was butchered. Because we didn’t have a goat vet in our area, I called the lab to learn exactly what they needed for the test, and then my teenage daughter and I taught ourselves how to remove the liver for testing. Later I realized that this represented quite a cost savings, so we continued doing this ourselves and sending the livers to the lab to keep tabs on the copper status of our herd.

I also have a podcast episode where I interviewed a vet professor and ruminant nutritionist about Copper Deficiency and Toxicity in Goats.

Want to learn more about copper deficiency? I’ve created a free online course with a lecture, videos, and handouts. Click here to enroll.


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109 thoughts on “Goats and copper deficiency”

  1. Well done. I have argued with SweetLix for years that their one size fits all goat minerals do not have enough copper in them. Imagine the market if they listened to goat people!

  2. We use the sweetlix magnum milker for dairy goats free choice Plus we bolus and give BoSe at same time every 4 months

  3. I respo see to the copper deficiency. Question I have: I have been feeding alfalfa from day one. I also use alfalfa/Bermuda pellets, Timothy pellets and orchard grass. They do not free graze. What would you suggest to use instead of alfalfa? Thx

    • Some alfalfa is fine. Sounds like your goats are getting a varied diet. Molybdenum usually only becomes a problem when alfalfa is the only type of roughage they’re consuming. The Timothy and orchard pellets are providing some variety.

  4. Deborah, you should cross reference years experience of breeders and herd size to dosage level and frequency of COWP… Those #’s be interesting because it might really paint a different picture… so many variables on individual goat herd needs based off management. The statistics are good but correlations would be so much stronger…

    • That is a cool idea! I’ll have to see what size group I have when I separate them. As you said, there are so many variables, I didn’t want to slice and dice into segments too small.

  5. Where can I get copper minerals and what brand is good. After reading this I see I havecacproblem of lack of copper in my herd. My girls are due at the end of this month.

  6. Deborah, i am currently treating a lactating doe who showed signs of copper def. and barber. following the dosage recommended in this article. http://countryfolks.com/using-copper-oxide-wire-particles-to-help-control-barber-pole-worms-on-northeast-sheep-and-goat-farms/

    just cerouse how could a doe thats been dry lotted since last spring no different feed, hay stored inside and dry end up with barber. her dam passed from barber 2 yrs ago could it be they where dormat and when she became pregnate they reammerged? just wondering. sorry about spelling

    • The article mentions three different dosages, so I’m not sure which one you’re using. I’ve always used the higher dosage (1 gram per 20-22 pounds) because we’re using it to correct copper deficiency.

      Your explanation about dormancy is plausible. I’ve seen that written in multiple places, although usually only dormant for a few months, not a year. The other possibility is that barber pole is not the only problem. If the goat also has brown stomach worm, the copper won’t be effective (as your article mentioned). Is your goat only anemic? If she also has diarrhea, brown stomach worm is possible. If she just has poor body condition, then bankrupt worm may be more likely. Since they are all roundworms, the eggs look the same on a fecal, according to two very well known researchers that I queried.

        • Copper is fine during pregnancy, but the BoSe bottle says that it should not be given to pregnant ewes. (It is labeled for sheep, not goats, which is why it says ewes.)

  7. I feed mine chaffhaye with their grain plus they have a lot of pasture to graze from. Since this is fermented does it still affect the copper. I also have loose minerals that contain 7500 ppm Cooper.
    Maczoo Farm
    Columbia Tn

    • As far as I know, fermentation does not affect the molybdenum level in the alfalfa. Remember, alfalfa is only a problem if it’s their sole source of food. I’d recommend against feeding Chaffhaye as the sole source of food because it is really high in protein, which isn’t good for goats’ kidneys. They need some grass hay or pasture or browse to balance it out.

      Are you sure the loose minerals are 7500 ppm copper and not 1500? Every goat mineral I’ve seen is around 1500 +/- 300. I’ve never seen one with more than 1800 ppm. The highest cattle mineral I’ve seen is 3000 ppm, which was what was being fed in a case study where several goats died from copper toxicity, so I really don’t recommend anything higher than 1800 ppm copper.

  8. I read something your wrote about a recipe for goat treats using ginger and garlic and giving the bolus in this little cookie. I cannot find the recipe. I just got 3 goats 2 days ago. I would love to make it for them. Could you send it? Thank you so much

  9. Very interesting article and it blows my feeding program out of the water. I feed 100%, excluding grain, alfalfa. If I run out of alfalfa and steal grass hay from my cow my girls cut their milk production in 1/2 within 2 days. No pasture is available to me so all hay must be hand fed. So if I feed 1/2 alfalfa and 1/2 grass hay will that be enough to help with the copper problems. I get bare tails, but none of the other problems as I feed loose cow minerals and give copper bolus at least twice per year?

    • I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you aren’t seeing any fertility issues, your supplementation plan is probably working. Cow minerals tend to be quite high in copper, so that’s probably helping a lot. The only other thing I’d watch out for is possibly zinc deficiency in your bucks if they also get 100% alfalfa. Bucks don’t need as much calcium as does because they’re not making milk. The high calcium in alfalfa binds with zinc, so if the boys start foaming at the mouth or blowing big chunks of their coat, I’d look for some grass hay for them.

    • Debi, what kind of filter do you use? We have terrible well water and installed a whole house water filtration system, but I don’t want to make a habit of carrying buckets of water from the house. Someone suggested putting a RV filter on our outdoor spigot, so I might have to try that.

      • An RV filter won’t help. You need a chlorine or hydrogen peroxide filter to get out sulfur. A water softener will remove a lot of iron and calcium. We have a peroxide filter AND a water softener, and we still have a little sulfur, calcium, and iron coming through, but it’s definitely not as much as it was before. But that cost us a couple thousand dollars. I’m also looking forward to Debi’s response to see what they use.

        • Deborah, about 30 days ago I spoke with a goat extension specialist at Langston University regarding our copper deficiency issue due to the rural water. He suggested I copper bolus again and start watering the goats with the filtered/softened water from our house. It’s a little more work, but our filter system is connected to all of the house spigots so I currently am running a hose to the goat pen. My blue roan’s coat improved in about two weeks and still looks good. I notice all three goats are eating a little less of the Sweetlix Meat Maker loose mineral. Not sure what I wil do during winter, but for now I’m seeing improvement.

          I asked the Langston University guy about top dressing COWP and he said for treating parasites (Barber Pole) the COWP must remain in the capsule. A long-time goat person recently agreed with that statement, adding that top dressing however is suitable for treating copper deficiency. Have you seen research on comparison of the two administration methods for parasite control?

          • This is actually the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say that it was OK to top-dress for supplementation but not for parasites. Usually it’s the opposite. However, either way, it’s incorrect. There is no difference in efficacy for parasites or supplementation regardless of whether or not it is fed in a bolus.

            I was just at Langston last month working on videos for my upcoming parasite class. I discussed this topic with Dr. Hart, and I know he certainly would not have said that. The research has shown that top-dressing for parasites works fine. Here is a link to Dr. Burke’s study on that topic from 2010 — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19945224

            I also visited with Dr. Burke in Arkansas last month. I interviewed her also for my upcoming class on parasites, and in the video interview about the use of COWP for parasites, she talks about her research and says that it works the same regardless of whether it has been added to feed or given in a bolus.

  10. I’m seeing some pretty classic symptoms of copper deficiency in my goats, with faded hair coats, fish tails, and rough coats with hooked hairs. They’re shedding their winter coats late, several does didn’t settle. Some appear anemic, and I’m struggling with parasites as well. However, copper bolusing at 1 gram per 20 lbs resulted in only slight improvement in hair color in some individuals. I’m thinking that high calcium and iron may be interferring.

    Currently, the bucks are being fed oat hay. Does and weanlings get alfalfa with some 16% protein goat grain(more grain to milkers). I have baking soda and a 2:1 loose cattle mineral in separate containers free choice for everyone. After reading this, I realize that my well water is high in calcium and iron. Should I reduce my mineral to a 1:1 ca:phos since the does and weanlings are getting extra calcium from the alfalfa and water anyway? The grain is also higher in calcium than phosphorus as well. Approximately 2.5:1 or 3:1.

    • I’ve spoken to the nutritionist at Sweetlix, and she said that their Magnum Milk (which has 1:1 ratio) is for goats that receive a diet of primarily alfalfa. I’ve never switched from the Meat Maker (which is 2:1) because it seems to be working for my does, but switching minerals might work for you. It’s something to try. Let me know how it goes!

  11. Hi Deborah, I have taken several of your online classes, thank you for all the info i have learned. I am currently a bit confused on what I’m doing wrong giving copper. I have had Nigerian Dwarf goats for about 6 years. I currently have 23 goats. I am once again noticing what i think is copper deficiency in several of my goats. Fish tail, reddish color, hair loss. I give the copper bolus by opening it up and putting it in a piece of banana. All of my goats love banana. I do this approximately every 3 to 4 months or so. I have well water that sometimes smells like sulphur so not sure if that’s contributing to my problem. Goats were eating grassy hay mix with alfalfa. Maybe 75 grass 25% alfalfa. Now they are on pasture. I live in Minnesota. What i have noticed is that the copper does not seem to have the same effect it did in the first couple years. I have read a few articles saying the copper needs to be in a bolus so it doesnt get digestest too fast. Do you have an opinion on this? I have read its difficult to bolus the Nigerians? I see you feed with grain. I am using Ultra Cruz copper bolus for cattle and open and measure it on a small scale @ 1 gram per 22 lbs. Can you give me any ideas why it doesnt seem to be working? Or what I’m doing wrong? Thank you or anyone who has ideas. Sincerely Connie

    • I should have added I also free choice feed Purina mineral for goats and sometimes the Manna Pro i think it is. Also free separate baking soda.

    • When people say that the copper will be more slowly absorbed if you give it as a bolus, they are not understanding one of two things — either they think the capsules are timed release, which they are not; or they think the goats are grinding up the copper when they chew it, which they are not. There is a published scientific study that shows no difference in the efficacy of the COWP as a dewormer regardless of whether it is top-dressed or bolused. And there was someone several years ago who took an x-ray of a goat that ate the COWP in a marshmallow, and more than week later, there were still bits of copper in the rumen.

      I might need more details to fully understand your question, but if your goats are just starting to show a faded coat or fish tails at 3-4 months, that does NOT mean that your supplement program isn’t working. That just means that you have to supplement that often. Many of us with sulfur in our well water have to supplement that often.

      I will also add that I am not a fan of Santa Cruz. They have info on their label that is not backed up by research. First of all, it’s ridiculous that they claim their copper lasts a year because it does not. That will vary from farm to farm, based upon local conditions, and I know plenty of people who’ve wound up with copper deficient goats because they believed that statement. Second, they have zero research to back up their claim that the bolus must be given whole. Sadly, when I asked them for research on that, they sent me a picture of the x-ray of the goat’s rumen that had eaten the copper in a marshmallow, and they claimed that that x-ray somehow proved that you had to bolus. It’s really not ethical to swipe someone else’s photo off the web and then claim it somehow proves what they said when it actually proves exactly the opposite of what they claimed — because that goat actually chewed up the copper. Based on that, plus the legal complaints of animal abuse on their farms, I really don’t trust their products, so I only recommend Copasure.

      • Well, I just bought 2 containers of these SantaCruz boluses for my goats and kids and that will be the only time I buy that brand. Thanks for sharing all this great info. I also see that someone mentioned online classes. I do not have facebook, is there another way for me to look into your classes? We run a small family ranch, just me and my husband and we have an up and coming rancher that is almost 4 yrs old. We raise Boer goats and I just recently purchased a Mini-Nubian for milk purposes.

      • How long does it take to see improvement in fishtail, hair loss, and coat changes after giving a copper bolus?

        • It can vary from one symptom to another. Hair loss on the bridge of the nose grows back in 2-3 weeks. Hair on the tail takes much longer because the hair is longer. The hair itself does not change color, so it depends on how quickly the goat sheds out the old hair. I’d suggest signing up for the free copper course, which includes lectures and photos to help you understand this better.

        • If you sign up for the free copper course, you can also upload pictures of your goats so I can see what you are concerned about.

          • I have been very excited to find your site and info! I am pretty sure I am having copper def in all my goats. I don’t have access to any other product but the Copasure, which says that it is for kid goats over 25 lbs. Mine are all adult and 2 are pregnant…I bought a new Nubian about 5.5 months ago and she has been down in one form or another ever since I got her…now, they all look stressed, but, I have been feeding a lot of alfalfa…so, I just located some beardless wheat hay, no pesticides,herbicides, so, I am gonna add that and try to top dress or put in peanut butter and get it down all of them. The 2 are ready to kid, any day…This says that 2G each is in the capsules…so, I am gonna do 2 each for them all, even though, one could prob use 3, as she is quite big…probably triplets… Now, after kidding…do I do another round or wait for a few months…I plan to herbally worm also, after the kidding and I am gonna add a weekly dose of B Vits (human), A/D/E and I often do Vit C for any animal struggling with a bit of B3. I appreciate your wisdom and insights as a God’s blessing… best to you and yours… Evelyn

          • Copasure makes a 4 gram bolus for adults, which you should be able to buy wherever you found the 2 gram capsules. Maybe they were just sold out temporarily. But you can also find them online.

            There is no one-size-fits-all schedule for using copper oxide. You only use it for goats that are showing symptoms of being deficient in copper. You should not need to use it more often than every three months at most, but some people use it every six months, and some never use it. You need to know the symptoms. I’d suggest you sign up for the free course so that you can post photos in the discussion area there.

            It sounds like you might be headed for killing your goats with kindness. There is no reason you need to give all of those supplements routinely to your goats. I absolutely do NOT recommend human B vitamins for goats. Other than providing a free-choice loose mineral (like Sweetlix Meat Maker or Purina Goat Minerals) I only recommend that you use additional supplements when goats are exhibiting symptoms of deficiency. Otherwise you risk throwing things way off balance. Goats produce some of their own B vitamins in their rumen and don’t need any help from us under normal circumstances. Goats do not need vitamins A or E if they are eating green grass and browse, as those vitamins are abundant in green forage. And like humans, they get vitamin D from the sun.

          • I better clarify, “get it down” refers to the copper and I will be ordering some more online. (: Thx. E

  12. Thank you very much for your quick response. To clarify my post the goats never seemed to get much better after giving the copper about two months ago. I assumed the copper in the bolus was the same or similar to Copasure. I will get Copasure and try that next. I was just wondering your thoughts on bolus vs emptying into feed or banana or marshmallow? Besides the bolus another part of the article I read also mentioned that the bolus should be given a few hours before or after eating, on an empty stomach, I forgot to say that before. I had no idea about the animal abuse on Santa Cruz farms and based on what I read after looking it up I will no longer purchase any of their products. Thank you for informing me on this. What I am thinking then is that I may have to give copper more often then? I will purchase the Copasure and continue banana method then more frequently? Thank you for your thoughts.

    • If you’ve only given the copper once, you could try it again and see if you have different results. If not, I’m nervous about giving it too often. In the studies they’ve done, they’ve never given it more often than once a month for four months total. With that, they did not have any cases of toxicity. However, when people I know have done two months in a row, the goats have blown their coats massively, which could be an indication that the zinc was thrown out of balance. They seemed to go back to normal without any long lasting effects, but it makes me nervous to give the copper oxide too often.

      Quite a few people who did not see excellent results with the copper oxide wire particles had better results using Replamin Plus, which also contains zinc and a few other minerals. Most people give that once a week, so it’s a bit more labor intensive, but it’s worth a shot. You could give half of your herd the copper oxide and give half of them Replamin Plus and see what kind of results you get.

      The copper lasts in the stomach for about a month, so there is no benefit to trying to give it to a goat several hours after eating. Being ruminants, their stomach is not ever really ’empty’ the way ours are.

  13. I know this is a slightly older article, but I did have a few questions, one in particular that I’d love insight on from someone who’s more knowledgeable than I.
    A year ago, I purchased a doe who entered my feeding program and two months later started showing signs of copper deficiency – balding tip of the tail, rough coat, and lessened resistance to parasites. She also lost quite a bit of weight. I offer free choice minerals (with high copper content, they’re a cattle – Onyx?- mineral), cobalt blocks, sea kelp, Replamin Plus gel every other week, and copper boluses every three to six months depending on the doe.

    My question is, how do you balance alfalfa (and therefore molybdenum) levels and copper levels without losing the benefits of either one? For heavy producers, who need higher amounts of calcium, how do you make sure they are getting enough of that without affecting copper levels?
    I feed alfalfa hay free choice to my milkers, as it is one of the only things that helps maintain their weight level throughout lactation (my does produce 2+ gallons and naturally are never exactly “chubby” looking).
    Alfalfa hay is not their only option as far as roughage goes, they also have access to a grass hay mix ’round the clock and pasture/browse during the day.

    What would be some suggestions on getting this doe’s copper levels back on track? And how much copper is too much? She’s the only animal in the herd who has this ongoing problem now, and it is quite honestly painful to look at her when she comes into the milking barn every morning. She’s 20 pounds underweight, and is very anemic (I’ve done fecal samples and treated her accordingly, she has a low worm egg count).
    I should add I do not feed a sweet feed – the Purina Noble Goat Dairy Parlor Ration is what they get twice a day when on the stand. They get a handful of BOSS morning and evening as well, which is also high in copper from what I understand.

    Thanks so much! I’m at my wits end with this doe, and of course I don’t want to sell her either – therefore unloading the problem onto her next owner.

    • Don’t really worry about feeding “too much” alfalfa. Feed a sensible amount to keep your does in good condition and producing at their optimum level. This was not meant to discourage anyone from feeding alfalfa. It is just information to help you realize when you might need to supplement more with copper — and how alfalfa can affect their mineral status.

      When you have a supplementation program that works well for all but one or two goats in your herd, you just have to try a number of different things with that goat to see what helps. And as a vet professor once said to me, sometimes a goat just needs more groceries than others — especially in the first two months of lactation when they’re producing at their peak. Each doe is a little different when it comes to how much their body allocates calories to milk production or their own body condition. My does with the best condition are usually the lower milk producers.

      You mentioned using Replamin — I recently did a survey on selenium supplementation, and I asked how often people dose their goats with Replamin, and 60% of the people who use that supplement use it weekly, so you might consider increasing that for the one doe who seems to be having more issues. Also, when you have a goat like this, I think you might be dealing with multiple mineral deficiencies (such as zinc), so using a supplement that has several minerals in it might work better.

      You might also want to sign up for the free copper course linked at the end of article above. It’s a total of 45 minutes of videos, so will probably give you more to consider.

      • Thanks for your reply! 🙂 I appreciate it.

        I do know many people use Replamin Plus weekly, but since I’m offering free choice minerals I was a bit concerned about overdosing the does on specific vitamins/minerals. I am going to start giving this particular doe the gel every week, though, and see how she does on that.

        As far as zinc deficiency goes, how does one determine whether or not it is copper or zinc? I have heard that all the options for someone with a still-living goat aren’t always the most accurate, and from what I understand zinc represses copper?

        I am also considering cutting the sea kelp from this doe’s diet and seeing how that affects her. I’m working on drying her up now, as I’d rather her have a short lactation than continue to lactate heavily through this.
        The rest of the does look great, even the heavy producers (not super heavy, but not grossly underweight like this doe), but I am wondering if perhaps the majority of the herd isn’t a tad bit copper deficient. In the winter, some of the does’ coats get rougher, and before I’d always chalked it up to other causes. Now that I’m dealing with this other doe, though, I’m second guessing that.

        I have been meaning to watch those videos – thank you!

        • Copper usually affects color of coat, and a goat does NOT shed out its winter coat in a timely manner. With zinc deficiency the goat usually sheds the coat when it should not — like in the middle of winter — and in big patches on the body so that you see bare skin. Zinc deficient goats may also foam at the mouth. Zinc and copper can antagonize each other, so they need to stay pretty balanced, which is why something like Replamin might work better for this one goat, rather than simply more copper.

          Also looked back at your original post and realized you said you feed Noble Goat. It only has 20-25 ppm copper, which is why I used to feed the Purina Goat Chow — it has about 40 ppm. Now I have the local feed mill make a custom mix for us with 40 ppm.

          You haven’t said how far along in her lactation she is, but if she is only 2-3 months fresh, she has peaked, and her production will be going down. My best milkers always look pretty dreadful at 2-3 months, but by 6 months, they are in excellent body condition again. You also didn’t say what breed, but I’m assuming they’re big if they’re producing two gallons a day, so being 20 pounds underweight is not too unusual for a heavy milker, especially if she’s only 2-3 months fresh.

    • Both Purina Goat Chow and Dumor Sweet Feed for Goats have that much copper. Note that other Purina and Dumor goat feeds do not. You have to look for those specific varieties. They also have twice as much selenium as most feeds. I don’t know how they do that legally, because the government limit on selenium is supposed to be 0.3 ppm, but it’s great that they do.

  14. Good morning I’m using alfalfa grass mix as feed. Salt free choice minerals and the new ols lick tubs. Also they get all natural cracked corn from a bulk supplier. I have about 200 breeding does. I loose one from time to time. About 1 a year. Should I be worried about anything. Also I grain the three recommended time.

    • I couldn’t say based upon the info you’ve provided. You need to read the labels and see how much copper is in the minerals — should be around 1500 ppm. They should NOT have a separate source of salt available because there is salt in the minerals. It’s easier for goats to eat loose minerals, rather than a block or a tub. Sorry I don’t know what your last sentence means. The free copper course linked in the article will give you a lot more information about nutrition.

  15. I have been having a terrible time getting the copper into my goats. They spit out the marshmallows I stuffed with it and simply would not eat the sweet feed with the copper in it. (I’ve been feeding them pellets) I give them Molly’s herbal wormer in the form of a ball that has molasses and rolled in slippery elm powder every Saturday. They will ingest about a half a gram if I put them in the balls they get on Saturday. Do you think I will get the same benefit if I just do this for 4 -5 weeks every quarter? Or does it need to be in the full concentration?

    • If you are using the copper oxide for copper supplementation, then yes, you can split up the doses. If you are using it for parasite control, then you’d need to get at least 1 gram into them at once. In the free copper course, there is a video that shows how I give copper to my goats.

        • Your original question was if it was okay to decrease the dose and do it more often, and yes, you can do that. Perhaps I’m not understanding. It’s not a good idea to increase the dose and do it less often. The research uses 1 gram per 20-22 pounds, so 3 grams is enough for a 60-66 pound goat, which is at least a 2 year old.

  16. Thank you so much for all the information! I recently took your online copper course and am currently reading your book. I had a question about fiber goats and copper. I recently read that fiber goats are more sensitive to copper, like sheep, and should be fed sheep feed and minerals to avoid copper toxicity. Do you know if there is any truth to this? I am still pretty new to goats. I got 3 bottle babies last spring (saanen doe, lamacha buck, and lamancha wether). Then I just added a beautiful little pygora wether this month.

    • I have heard people say that, but when I look this up in Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants, here are a couple of examples … mature does, 30 grams weight, maintenance only, 15 mg copper per day for meat and dairy breeds, 18 or 20 mg per day for angoras, depending upon fiber growth (need more copper for more fiber growth); for growing kids 10 grams body weight, 8 to 10 mg per day, depending upon weight gain for meat and dairy kids, or 9 o 11 mg per day, depending upon weight gain and mohair growth. Those are just two examples, but it looks like they might actually need a tiny bit more copper than dairy and meat goats. This actually makes sense when you realize that copper is very important for hair growth and especially color.

      It is not true that sheep don’t need copper. They simply need less than goats, and some breeds need more than others. I used to put goat minerals out for my Shetland sheep (which I had for 12 years) a couple of times per year because some of them became copper deficient. They showed exactly the same symptoms as my goats — could not handle a parasite load, became anemic, and black faces faded to light gray. Within two weeks of giving them copper oxide, their faces were black, anemia was gone, and they were gaining weight. I was on the verge of losing two of them to what appeared to be a very small parasite load when I noticed their faded faces and said, “If they were goats I’d swear they were copper deficient.” I figured I had nothing to lose, so I gave them the COWP, and they improved. So, bottom line is always to watch your animals. Do they have symptoms of deficiency?

  17. I’m a new goat owner two Nergerian male goats. They have a red color to their coat I have iron and sulfur in my water so I guve them cooper I tried cooper in powder. Form don’t know what to do and don’t want to over do thank you

    • If you gave your goats a blue powder copper supplement, that’s copper sulfate, which I do not recommend because it is very easy to overdose goats with it.

  18. Great information here. I read where you say every 3-4 months as needed. I am struggling with my three whethers. Two are turning reddish while the other is going from brown to tan and losing hair around his eyes, ears and legs now. I last gave them a bolus in middle of Feb so it makes me nervous giving them another dose so soon. Previously I went 6 months but I had only started this process. They are 2 years old and eat orchard/fescue hay with manna pro minerals. Your thoughts on another dose of 2gr essentially six weeks later?

    • How much do they weigh? The typical dose is 1 gram per 22 pounds. At age 2, even if they are mini goats, I’d assume they’re in 60-80 pounds range, so if you only gave the 2 grams, that’s a half dose.

      • Wonderful information! I’ve been doing copper bolus with my girls for the last few years. We also use Sweetlix Meat Maker, free choice loose mineral. I also leave out Thorvrin kelp, free choice. I’m still seeing difficulties with our girls. Coats, hair thinning. Also had a few kid early. We have 22 girls. Now I don’t copper bolus more then twice a year, which may be the problem. But I wanted to ask if you have heard of Crafts-Min for goats by Grass Farmer Supply Company? Would love to get your opinion. The copper is high though, 5100 ppm. We don’t feed much alfalfa, and don’t have noticeable issues with water. No smell, no residues. I haven’t tested it though, so I can’t truly rule out our well water. Copper deficiency is a major problem in our area. Just know it’s a fine balance. A few breeders here in California have seen good results with the Craft-Min. No longer needing to bolus, or inject BOSE, and replamin weekly. But the high copper just makes me nervous. Just wanted to get opinion. Thanks for your time.

  19. There are no copper or selenium injections or supplements available where i live (Bangladesh ). My vet has no idea that goats need this! Amazon does not deliver here. Can i give my copper deficient goats pieces of copper wire from inside electric wire. They are very deficient…faded hair..losing weight..hoof problems..fish tail..single births..balding nose and eyes.

    • I’m sorry I don’t have any ideas for you. I’d worry that the electrical wires might have other metal in them also, including metal that would be harmful, such as lead or aluminum. I hope you can find something.

  20. I’ve been giving my goats copper boluses of 4 gm for the adults for several years, but I never saw the 1 gm per 20-22 lb instruction before now. I have two 200 lb Alpine Nubian wethers that I’ve only given 4 gm to, but according to the gm per lb, they would need about 9-10 grams each? Is that correct or am I reading that wrong? They do seem to get copper deficient rapidly, so I do the bolus every three months instead of the longer periods of time I have read about online. Would it be better to give a larger amount less frequently? I thought I had this figured out, but now I’m confused again. ;-(

    • You read it correctly, but if that amount is working for your wethers, that’s fine to continue doing that. If you gave more, they would probably go longer between doses. Wethers tend to be very easy keepers since they are not producing anything (no sperm, no babies, no milk, etc), which is why a smaller amount works for them.

  21. Hi Just found your site and have 2 wether pack goats that are still working on shedding their coats. I had some powdered Copper that I had gotten for my horse and thought I would see if they wanted it, just put a little in a pan and they both dove in to it. I feed them free choice minerals all the time. Some time they eat is other time it is not touched. They get basic hay for the evening with timothy pellets and pasture during the day. I have had iron, etc minerals in the water and use a filter on the well and house and their drinking water which they share with the horse. So what do you think about them diving into the copper I offered tonight? What more should I do?

    • Not all minerals are created the same. Is it a loose mineral? Does it have about 1800 ppm copper?

      I’m a little nervous about the type of copper you mentioned. If it’s a blue powder, it’s probably copper sulfate, which has a very small margin of safety.

      I would need to know the names of the products you’re using and exactly how much and what type of copper is in them before commenting further.

  22. Hi! I love all the information on your website, thank you! We are new to goats, have had 2 Nigerian dwarf kids for a month now, got them at 9 weeks so they are just over 3 months. They have been small w/rough coats (I didn’t really notice at first since we are so new…) Did a fecal and treated both for coccidiosis (were not having diarrhea at the time). Have been done with the treatment (albon) for 4 days now… one doeling has the beginning of what I believe is a fishtail. They have access to purina goat mineral free choice, and we give them purina goat chow morning and night, probably a cup each so two cups total each per day. They also get some sunflower seeds in the grain. How long should I wait for their coats to get better and whatnot? Thank you so much, I can send pics too!

    • Oh and they have grass alfalfa hay as well as browsing on natural vegetation…we are in Eastern WA so it is snowberry, some weeds and bunch grass.

    • It would be really unusual for kids that age to be showing signs of copper deficiency unless their mothers were copper deficient. I would not worry about the beginning of a fish tail, especially at this age. Copper-deficient goats have multiple symptoms, not just one.

      Small with rough coats sounds like a parasite issue. What do they weigh? Are they at least 20 pounds?

      Thanks for all of the details! On the grain, I’d cut that in half. That’s a lot of grain for a ND kid. I’d worry about getting some kind of rumen upset. I hope you have free choice baking soda available. If they’re not eating much, that’s fine, but if they’re going through it quickly, it’s because they’re getting too much grain. Also, kids don’t need sunflower seeds. They are added to the ration for milkers because it increases butterfat.

      • Thanks for the info! They only weight about 12 lbs… 🙁 Nothing except the coccidia showed up on the fecal. We do have baking soda out as well. Would a pellet feed be ok to offer to add protein? I’m really hoping they wont be stunted forever… Thanks again!

        • You definitely cannot breed them this year. They need to be at least 40 pounds before breeding (2/3 of their adult weight of about 60 pounds). Many reach 40 by the time they’re 7-8 months old and can be bred to kid as yearlings. They didn’t get enough milk as babies, and this may not be their first case of coccidiosis. Protein is important, but what’s even more important for baby goats — and why they are so tiny — is because they need the antibodies in their mother’s milk. They are born with a very immature immune system, so getting enough milk is absolutely vital to proper growth. That is incredibly small for 3 months. I shoot for 20 pounds by 2 months. I don’t let kids leave until they weigh 20 pounds.

          I always get suspicious when someone says there are no worms in a fecal. There should be some worms. Do you remember exactly how the vet phrased it? If there absolutely zero worms, that usually means someone made a mistake in the process. Did you get poop that was fresh? In other words, you saw them poop it? If you pick up poop in the pasture or their stall, you probably won’t see any eggs in it because they’ve already hatched. A fecal can confirm a bad case of worms, but it cannot actually rule it out. Are their eyelids bright pink, light pink, or white?

          • Eyelids are just light pink. I did get fresh droppings from each one. I don’t remember exactly how she phrased it with the worms. Do u have any recommendations for feed? Go ahead and worm them? My daughters already love these goats and I’m getting worried . Thanks so much for the good info.

          • This is a fairly complex situation, so I’m going to send you an email so we can continue to discuss in more detail, and you can send photos.

  23. Hi Deborah,
    How long will it be before i can notice a difference in the gaorts condition after dosing with copper particles?
    I gave 5.5g copper particles to my 60 – 65 kg goats almost two weeks ago. I have seen good improvement in some, but wondering if the others need more copper.

    • It really depends on which symptoms you’re talking about. You don’t see much in two weeks other than blowing the coat, if they haven’t shed out in awhile. It takes about a month for hair on the bridge of the nose to completely grow back, and it takes even longer to see a difference in the tail because that hair is really long. As for color — if they shed out all of the old faded hair, they’ll look better quickly, but it takes longer for new hair to grow back. Bottom line — you should not give them more than the recommended dose.

  24. Is Copasure the capsules used in the video? Would like capsules since the way it was given in the video is great.

    • I do use Copasure, but I buy the cattle-sized boluses, break them open and then redistribute them into smaller capsules. A capsule size 0 holds 2 grams, and a capsule size 1 holds 1 gram. If you have a lot of goats, it’s much cheaper if you buy the cattle boluses.

  25. Hi, you are my go-to source on the copper subject. My goats are looking particularly copper deficient, even though I gave them a full dose (3+ grams / 65 lbs) only 2 months ago. I’m so afraid of overdosing them, yet also afraid to just let them be sick/deficient for the next month until we’re in the next-dose zone of 3-4 months.

    Would you like to see a pic or two?

    Am I better off just dosing again now the 3 grams each, or waiting a month and maybe giving them 4 grams each in hopes of solving the problem? It’s a constant struggle.

    They are Nigerian Dwarf, non-breeding females, 4, years old.

    So appreciate any advice!!


  26. Copper sulfate compared to copper oxide wire particles.
    Cost of buying copper bolus capsules here in OZ is just not affordable, if you have a reasonable size heard, and the time it takes to give copper bolus capsules is just not practicable
    Yes goats need copper and for most the copper bolus is safe. However after much research and also breeding a fairly large number of free range poultry, I came across this formula, THAT WORKS. for poultry and goats
    Using copper sulphate. Take any plastic bottle say a 2ltr and fill it three quarters full of tank water preferably. Using copper sulphate powder also know as blue stone, start dribbling it into the bottle and shake, keep doing this until you can see the mix is saturated and a layer is settling on the bottom not dissolving. its a deep blue colour.
    This is your CONCENTRATE MIX. In a 5 gal bucket of water you put one cap full about 15ml of the concentrate mix. this is safe and I use it daily. I also put a small amount of molasses in the water, so they drink it readily.
    My goats were suffering in that I just couldnt get them to shine and I was worming continually. After a couple of weeks I could see a difference, and after 3 months WOW, I experimented with 36 goats, keep separate from the main heard, but on the same bush scrub and pasture. The difference is cheese and chalk. Goats have changed colour, healthy shining and in great condition.
    Only 2 goats out of the 36 needed to be wormed, while they changed colour these two still had barbers pole worm.( now culled)
    Very cost effective and a alternate to using copper bolus capsules.
    Out here we have herds of several thousand goats, do you think they could afford copper bolus capsules. I do give my goats this mix everyday, and also soak their grain over night with a cap full of this mix added to the water.
    Goats will drink what they want, and helps keep them quite.
    doesn’t matter if you have 5 goats or 500. A little often works best. And all my goats still have access to dam water at all times. Hope this helps.

    • It’s great that this has worked for you, but the margin of error on copper sulfate is VERY narrow. I know multiple people in the US who have accidentally killed goats with copper sulfate mixed into water, so I do NOT recommend this. I don’t know what is available in Australia for copper oxide, but in the US, you can save hundreds of dollars on copper oxide if you buy the cattle boluses and break them apart, which is what I do. We give the copper oxide when we are trimming hooves or on the milk stand, so it does not take us any additional time to give it to them.

  27. I was reading your question and reply thread……… I noticed several mentions of giving goats free access to baking soda ….can you explain how to and the benefits of doing so.thank you…..one other question I have a 6 month old nanny that is walking in circles any thoughts on that ??

    • Here is the scoop on baking soda — https://thriftyhomesteader.com/goats-need-baking-soda/

      If the doe just started walking in circles today, it could be listeriosis, whose common name is “circling disease,” and it’s fatal if treatment is not started within hours of symptoms appearing. If she’s been doing this for days or weeks and has no other symptoms, then it’s just her being special.

      • If it is isteriosis ………… how does one go about treating it ?? the circling is a new developement
        …………. one other question…………. what is your thoughts on cobalt blocks ??

        • Listeriosis is a very severe infection. It needs to be treated with antibiotics, and I’d call the vet. But if that is the only thing she is doing, and she seems otherwise fine, that’s probably not it. It really kills goats fast. Check out this post to see if it might be meningeal worm, which also causes neurological issues but doesn’t kill goats as fast as listeriosis.

          Cobalt blocks are a huge waste of money because they are 98% salt, and they actually contain very little cobalt. Sweetlix Meat Maker minerals have far more cobalt in them than a so-called cobalt block. And cobalt deficiency is actually pretty rare. Here is more info on that —

          • I thought I’d give you a follow up on my “circling nanny ” ……… I gave her 2 shots of antibiotic and have been giving her daily doses of coloidal silver…. I also have treated her with 2 treatments of copper sulfide……… she has now stopped walking in circles.. One more question … How does a goat get Listeriosis … and can one take actions to keep it from happening in the future ?? Thank you for all your help….. you are a God send !! :-))

          • I am glad she is improving! Listeriosis is just another “bug” that’s in the environment. It usually shows up due to a problem with feed, such as feeding silage or haylage that’s fermented incorrectly, but it could come from any feed that’s gone bad. The only case we’ve ever had appeared to come from nowhere obvious.

            Just FYI, I do NOT recommend coloidal silver or copper sulfate. There has been zero research on silver in goats, so you’re basically experimenting on your goats when using it. Copper sulfate has a VERY narrow margin of safety, and I know multiple people who have accidentally killed goats with it. (I assume “sulfide” was a typo, as copper sulfide is harmful even if only absorbed through the skin.)

  28. Have you used the slow feeder net bags for hay? I think our two Nigerian does have worn the hair off their noses getting hay out of the bag. They show no other symptoms of copper deficiency. They have free choice of the minerals that you suggest, but I’m sure that our water is heavy in iron and probably calcium. Have others noticed noses going bald with net feed bags?

    • I have not used the net bags because I worry about goats getting a leg caught and hurting themselves. However, it is possible for goats to rub hair off their noses on a hay feeder. Goats with copper deficiency usually have more than one symptom, and they will definitely have more than one symptom before it gets serious or kills them. As long as you’re aware of the other symptoms, you have time to deal with it before it gets severe.

      • Thank you for your reply. I too have been concerned about the them hurting themselves with the net bag. I think I need to re-evaluate. Have you heard of goats being injured?

        • I have never heard of an experienced goat owner using those bags. But I have had kids hang themselves in hay feeders that were made for horses because the openings are just big enough for a kid to get its head stuck, and when it can’t get out, it strangles. Goats are experts at finding ways to hurt themselves.

  29. Many thanks for this interesting article.
    Is it true, that the need of copper supplement in (west african) dwarf goats is very low compared with other goat breeds? There are so many contradictory informations about this question: some say that the need of copper in nutrification is very similar in all goat breeds and others say, that the critical upper limiting amount of copper intake in dwarf goats is comparable with the amount for sheep?
    And how much daily copper supplement would you recommend for dwarf goats that feed on pasture and hay with low copper content?

    • That is not true, and that is not even something I’ve heard in the past. I have raised Nigerian dwarf goats for almost 20 years, and they have needed a lot of additional copper supplementation because of our well water. There are a lot of odd myths about copper. There is no one-size-fits-all need for copper because as I discussed already, a lot of copper deficiency is secondary, meaning that it is caused by copper antagonists in well water, such as sulfur or iron.

      You have to look for symptoms of copper deficiency, and ONLY give additional copper if your goats are showing multiple symptoms of copper deficiency. I’d suggest taking my free copper course to learn more. You can also post photos in the course in case there is a goat (or goats) you are concerned about.

      Hopefully you already have a free choice, loose goat mineral available that has around 1800 ppm copper.

    • These are the symptoms of copper deficiency, and IF a goat is copper deficient, these are the symptoms you will see. However, not all goats become copper deficient. If you have an excellent goat-specific mineral, it might be good enough. But if you have sulfur or iron in your well water, which bind with the copper, it might not be enough. This is why I wrote the article. There is no one-size-fits-all copper supplementation program that works because it varies from farm to farm.

  30. I have a small dwarf doe that is almost a year old. She used to have beautiful, soft, white fur, but now it looks rusty red along her spine and other patches of her coat. I’m wondering if this is copper deficiency, or if her coat is just changing? I know of young goats having their coats change colors before they’re fully grown.

    Another of my goats is about three years old and she’s a LaMancha on her 2nd freshening. She’s doing fine, but she’s had flaky white dandruff-looking stuff in her coat for a long time now, and I dont know how to treat it. Is this copper deficiency? She, too used to have soft fur, but now her dark brown coat is scruffy and faded-looking. If you give her a scratch, a lot of the dandruff comes up. I really dont know what to do and am feeling overwhelmed!!

    • Copper is important for hair color, so if you told me you had a red doe that turned white, I’d say yes, that’s copper deficiency. But having a goat get darker is definitely not copper deficiency.

      As for dandruff, that could be external parasites. You have to pull back the hair and look very closely at the skin for about 15 seconds to see if you can see anything crawling through the hair. If her coat is faded, that could be copper deficiency.

      The first thing to look at is — what brand of mineral do you have available for the goats? Is it a loose mineral or a block or tub? available 24/7 free choice?

  31. HI I AM BOTTLE FEEDING TWO EArly kids on caprilac and i want to ensure they are getting the right amount of copper, what do you suggest please

    • If you are feeding Caprilac, it’s made from goat milk, so it should be well balanced for their needs. You should also have a free-choice mineral available that has at least 1800 ppm (or 1800 mg/kg) of copper in it, and the kids will get what they need. If you don’t have any other goats, you won’t see the minerals disappearing very fast, so don’t worry about it. They will get what they need.


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