Vitamin E and Goats

vitamin E and goats

If a kid is born that is too weak to stand or suckle, and you’ve treated with selenium, but the symptoms don’t improve, the real problem could be vitamin E deficiency. Vitamin E is also important for proper functioning of the immune and reproductive systems.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Causes of vitamin E deficiency

Vitamin E is found in green leaves and seeds, so deficiency is unlikely when goats are outside browsing on fresh plants, according to Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants. It is more likely to occur towards the end of winter as stored hay ages and the vitamin E diminishes. The amount of vitamin E in commercial goat feeds may be zero or extremely low.

Many people assume they are giving their goat a therapeutic dose of vitamin E when they give them a selenium supplement. Although “everyone” knows that selenium and vitamin E work together, most people don’t know that there is very little vitamin E in supplements, such as BoSe, which contains only 50 mg of vitamin E, which does not even meet a goat’s requirement of the vitamin for a single day. Multi-Min, another injectable selenium supplement, contains no vitamin E at all.

According to Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants, the minimum daily requirement for goats and sheep is 5.3 IU vitamin E per kilogram of body weight. However, they also state, “This subcommittee recommends 10 IU of vitamin E per kilogram of body weight as an aid to protect small ruminants from infectious disease and to extend the storage life of lamb meat.” 

For example, a 50-pound goat is 22.7 kg, so at the recommended rate of 10 IU per kg of body weight, it would require 227 IU of vitamin E. Note that vitamin E supplements for humans are sometimes labeled in IU and sometimes in MG and sometimes both, so be sure you are looking at the correct number.

Dealing with vitamin E deficiency in newborns

There is very little transfer of vitamin E through the placenta, according to Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants, but colostrum is extremely rich in the vitamin. This is just one more reason it’s important to get kids nursing ASAP after birth, or to give them colostrum in a bottle, or via tube feeding, if they can’t suck. One study showed that although giving a vitamin E supplement to lambs at birth increased their serum vitamin E levels, it did not decrease mortality or increase lamb performance. Other studies have shown that supplementing ewes during late pregnancy did result in improved survival and performance among lambs. In cases of severe vitamin E deficiency in lambs, weekly injections were effective.

Vitamin E deficiency in older kids and adults

When butchered lambs are deficient in vitamin E, research has shown that their meat will spoil noticeably faster than lambs that were not deficient in vitamin E. Another odd symptom of vitamin E deficiency is bad-tasting milk from does. Because E is important for fertility, goats that fail to get pregnant or repeatedly have single kids may be deficient. Years ago we noticed an increase in the average number of kids per doe when we started to provide additional selenium supplements beyond the free-choice, mixed minerals. E is also important to proper immune functioning, so additional supplementation might be necessary if you see a lot of infections in your herd, such as mastitis or pneumonia. And, of course, white muscle disease can occur in adults, although it’s rare.

Preventing vitamin E deficiency

Provide pasture and browse for your goats as much as your local climate will allow so that they can eat plenty of fresh green plants. Goats on pasture normally get plenty of vitamin E through their diet, but not all forage is equal. Younger plants have more vitamin E in them than mature plants, and leaves have more than stems. That means that towards the end of the growing season, vitamin E levels can be 80 percent lower than they were a couple of months earlier.

It is always important to provide a free-choice, loose mineral, and check the label to be sure that it contains vitamin E.

… and selenium

Without blood testing, it’s tough to know whether a goat has a deficiency in selenium or vitamin E because the symptoms are almost identical. Years ago a vet told me that “no one tests for selenium” because the supplement is cheaper than the test. However, if you have a goat that has symptoms of selenium deficiency, and you’ve already given a supplement such as BoSe or Multi-Min, then a vitamin E deficiency is a definite possibility. There have been no documented cases of vitamin E toxicity in small ruminants, unlike selenium, which has a fairly narrow margin of safety and can result in death if a goat gets too much. So, before using more selenium, you might consider supplementing with vitamin E. For more information on selenium, check out this post on that important micro-nutrient.

According to Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants, all of the various forms of vitamin E are equally well absorbed. Supplementing with E is easy because it is available at your local grocery store and is easy to give. Since most of them are in softgel form, you can pop one into a goat’s mouth, and as soon as they bite into it, the oil squirts into their mouth. If you provide an oral supplement that provides around 100 percent of a goat’s daily need for vitamin E, you will likely need to do so for at least a couple of weeks to see an improvement or until the diet is improved to include plenty of vitamin E rich foods.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes and not meant to replace the services of a qualified veterinarian.

Click here to visit our Amazon store, which includes a list of things goats need.

Are your goats getting the nutrients they need?

Test your knowledge of goat nutrition. Take my free quiz and find out how much you know!

We all hate spam, so I don't spam, and I don't sell email addresses. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Vitamin E and goats pin image

26 thoughts on “Vitamin E and Goats”

  1. Hi I have a buck goat 3 years old, He is a Nigerian Dwarf.
    About 3 or 4 months ago he started sitting when eating, and seems very stiff in both back legs.
    He will go out graze and spar a little with the other buck that is with him. He eat and drink well. and all in all seems fine,
    I gave him a Thiamine round 2 cc every other day 5 days of shots over 10 days.
    It seem to help him a little but not enough to get him back to normal.
    Do you think it could be a Vitim problem?
    Or do you have any idea what it could be.
    He gets good Hay, water and graze.
    thanks for your input.
    Pam Haring
    Shadow Hills Ranch

    • If he’s eating lots of green stuff, such as browse and grass, it’s unlikely, but vitamin E is really safe, so you could get some gelcaps from the store and try it for a few weeks to see if there’s improvement.

      • He does not eat much of the grass but he love the Mallow and other green thing growing in his pasture.
        thanks the getting back with me, I will give it a try, it can’t hurt.
        Pam Haring

  2. I was wondering about dosage quidlelines.. could this be helpful as a long term supplement or just to give them a health push for a couple week? What would be the daily dosage? Everyday or occasionally?

    • As it says, most don’t have a problem getting enough from their diet as long as they are eating plenty of green foods, such as browse, weeds, and grass. It’s usually only a problem near the end of winter when they’ve been getting nothing but hay that’s not very green. And then you also consider whether you’re seeing any symptoms.

      One person who emailed me about this had a goat that had single kids every year. In their case, they had no area for the goats to forage, so they got hay 12 months a year. In that case, it would be beneficial to find a vitamin E supplement to add to that goat’s feed on a daily basis. Do you see a lot of mastitis or pneumonia or other infections that indicate an immune system that isn’t functioning at its peak? Do you see goats with white muscle disease? All supplements should be tailored to the particular herd or goat.

      If a goat does have symptoms, then I would use the dosage that I quoted in the post above — The current recommendation for vitamin E is 10 mg per kg of body weight daily, according to Goat Medicine. That means that if your doe weighs 100 pounds (45 kg), she needs 450 mg of d-alpha tocopherol daily. Vitamin E is normally labeled with IU rather than mg because mg varies between different types of vitamin E. So, 450 mg would be 301 IU of d-alpha tocopherol. So, one of the 400 IU vitamin E softgels would be a good starting point.

      • I believe you made a mistake with your calculations- 450 mg would be 670 IU, not 301 IU. To convert Vitamin E if the product label has D-Alpha-tocopherol as the ingredient:
        From IU to mg: IU * 0.67 = mg.
        For example: 30 IU * 0.67 = 20.1 mg
        From mg to IU: mg / 0.67 = IU

      • We hay year round, that being said we do not see symptoms such as mastitis, pneumonia, or illness in general. But we have had difficulty getting our does pregnant and a history of single births. We have well water so we bolus copper ever 3 months. I am just learning about Selenium and vitamin deficiency due to a couple goats with dry flakey skin that tested low on zinc in a blood test. What would you suggest be our nest step?
        We keep loose mineral out and feed alfalfa grass hay free choice.

  3. We have been feeding black oil sunflower seeds, they love it and their coats look so much better. Sunflower is high in Vit E, but is it enough to offset vit E dosing?

    • The majority of goats do not need additional vitamin E supplementation. The post talks about causes of deficiency and symptoms. If your goats are not showing any symptoms of deficiency, then you don’t need to worry about supplementing.

  4. I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on this blog . You have made my day! I think this is engaging and eye-opening material. Thank you so much for caring about your content and your readers.

  5. Yes thankyou so much I find your information so useful my momma goat just had 3 babies she lost two and they were the biggest both boys also t.he runt was a little girl .I don’t know what happened so sad. She does have mastitis I. One side that I have been treating thankyou again mike g from upper Michigan

  6. What are your thoughts on selenium vit E paste for goats? We’re very deficient here. How often can you give it? Thanks!

    • Most of them are a complete waste of money. They have less actual selenium in them than a good mineral like Sweetlix or Purina. I have only seen one that had a decent amount of selenium in it that might actually be beneficial.

  7. You wrote that “Another odd symptom of vitamin E deficiency is bad-tasting milk from does.”. Why is this happening?
    I haven’t heard this theory before.

    • That came from Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants, and they did not explain the cause and effect. However, most bad-tasting milk is a result of poor hygiene in milking. The taste is due to harmless skin bacteria getting into the milk and multiplying, which is why some people say it tastes better if you chill it quickly. Bacteria grows fast at body temperature. However, if you clean the udder before milking and put the first squirts into a separate container for the barn cat, the bacteria count should be extremely low, so the milk will taste fine.

      I would not suspect vitamin E deficiency as a cause of bad tasting milk if there were no other symptoms. Also note that vitamin E deficiency is caused by a lack of green food, so if your goats are on green pasture, I would not expect vitamin E deficiency as a cause of off-tasting milk. If your goat milk tastes great in summer but not so great in winter when they are getting hay that’s dried out and brown (from being left in the sun too long before baling), then maybe vitamin E deficiency is the cause.

  8. I have a doe who’s very over weight. All she eats typically is hay or our dry pasture. (It’s fall here). I have her stalled now for part of the day because I can’t seem to get weight off her. She didn’t get pregnant when she and her daughter went to the same buck. She came back home and peed blood for a time. No vet has been able to tell us why this happens (she’s peed blood under stress before).
    Last time she kidded she had triplets and a fourth sack. Her babies were of good weights too. This was three years ago. I want to breed her this year so am trying to get weight off her. I’ve wondered if vit d and e would be important to give her any maybe that could help her to become a healthy weight again.
    She is a boer. And has no worm overload. My farm is pretty clean. My animals typically are off pasture for long periods during the fall and winter due to rains. We live on the west coast. And I have a sand area that is around the barn and fenced off from the pasture. This helps with low worm counts.
    Your thoughts on whether vit e would help her would be appreciated.

    • I don’t see how vitamin E would help her lose weight. It’s pretty commonly accepted that overweight goats have trouble getting pregnant, and then if they do get pregnant, they can have kidding problems. If she is truly ONLY eating grass hay or pasture, then she could have a thyroid problem, which could be related to selenium deficiency. What is the name of the free choice, loose mineral that she has access to? What state are you in?

  9. I love your blog. How ever 3 yrs ago I got a bad head injury receiving a traumatic brain injury. Reading and comprehension has been a nightmare.
    I’m not able to go back to driving a 18 wheeler. That being said I have invested in my goats . They are Therpy to me. After reading your article. I’m more confused than ever about there minerals. I listened to your broadcast. That gentleman had to be a chemist. I feel like I need to be chemistry major to understand. It totally left me confused and frustrated. I had to learn to read all over at 60 years old. I love your articles how ever I wonder if I am the only person that has trouble understanding. Can you please simplify it. Maybe recommend a couple of best minerals. What kind of selenium and vitamin E. I’m sorry if I offended in any way not my intention. Just love my animals and I want to take good care of them. Thank you so very much. Love the blog. Great work.

    • I’m so happy to hear that your goats are your therapy animals. That’s wonderful! I think a lot of people feel that way about their goats. They are such loving creatures. I’m sorry to hear that some of the information is hard to digest. I totally understand.

      The two minerals that I recommend for breeding goats are Sweetlix Meat Maker and Purina Goat Mineral because they have enough copper and selenium, which are two of the most common minerals that goats can be deficient in. Both can be purchased online, but I know shipping can be a bear. Sweetlix is usually available from smaller independent distributors, whereas Purina tends to be at chains more. If your goats are pets only and will not be bred, then MannaPro can usually work. Copper and selenium are especially important for fertility, kid development in utero, and birthing, so pet goats don’t tend to need as much as breeding animals. MannaPro is usually easy to find locally, and it comes in smaller bags, if you only have a few goats.

  10. I have a 3 week old kid. She has weak front legs mostly at the ankle near the hooves. I read that it could be vitamin E deficiency. Is this possible?
    I am giving her electrolytes with her milk and splinting her legs so she doesn’t hurt herself. Is there anything else I should be doing?

    • I have never heard of a 3-week-old kid with weak pasterns. You see this sometimes in newborns, but it usually takes care of itself within a day or two, and the kid starts walking normally. If it is only the front legs, that does not sound like any kind of deficiency. Electrolytes are not doing anything for her. You should probably see a vet that is knowledgable about goats. If you don’t have one near you, see if there is a vet school with a teaching hospital. I happily drive two hours to a vet school when my goats need to see a vet. They have specialists there who can diagnose the weirdest things. Most of them are less expensive than local vets, although this can vary, so you can ask how much it costs before going in. Most will also be happy to brainstorm on the phone with you too.

  11. I have a goat he had a rough start when he came to me … under developed eye … Coccidia a few days after I brought him home… has had orf and we just found out through testing has CAE… I have him separated from the herd… he is showing no worrisome symptoms but would vitamin E help his immune system.. keeping him with me for as long as I can. Thanks for all you do enjoy the podcasts and all the info been a goat mom for only 2 years learn something new everyday.

    • Giving him more vitamin E than he needs is not going to help him. If he is eating green food — green grass, green hay, green browse, etc — he is getting plenty of vitamin E. If you are keeping him inside 24/7 now and the hay is old and not that green, then he might need a little extra vitamin E. If you’re planning to be breeding goats, you will have to be extremely mindful about cross contamination. I understand you love him, but his presence is endangering your other goats. And since goats are herd animals, they are happier and healthier with a friend. Being alone is stressful for them.

  12. We have a week goat that act like an old goat she is only 12 weeks old very stiff muscles when getting up she falls over. Can not run and play? Not sure what she is lacking!

    • Hi Bev
      Do you know the exact lineage of this little goat?
      You did not mention that it is acting sick, refusing food, or any other symptoms except that the legs get stiff and it falls over. Just wondering if you perhaps have a Myotonic (fainting) goat or perhaps a myotonic cross?


Leave a Comment

Join me online