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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

June 27, 2023 - 12:06pm --

Knowing when a goat is copper deficient is very important to know when raising goats. There are two types of copper deficiency, primary and secondary. Primary copper deficiency means the goats are not physically consuming enough copper. Goats can absorb copper from the grass and hay they eat but when the soil has low levels of copper their bodies are not able to absorb the copper. Goats can also absorb copper from grain and minerals that are fed to them. The exact amount of copper that is needed for goats is still unknown, but goats show us multiple signs when they don’t consume enough copper in their diet. They will have a faded or dull coat, balding, fish tail (balding tail tip), hair loss on the face and around the eyes.

            goats browsing

Some goats will start to turn color like a black goat will turn into a rusty color, red goats turn gold, gold goats turn cream and cream goats turn white. Copper deficient goats can have fertility problems. Bucks might not be able to get does to settle (get them pregnant) and a doe might not come into heat, or she might have silent heats. A doe could get pregnant then abort after a few weeks or she could give birth and the kids are too premature to survive.

            Goats are very susceptible to parasites. When a goat is deficient in copper, they have a hard time dealing with internal parasites. For example, they could start going downhill quicker than a goat that is not dealing with a copper deficiency.

Secondary copper deficiency means the goats could be consuming enough copper, but they are consuming minerals such as sulfur, iron, molybdenum and calcium which are copper antagonists. These minerals bind to the copper, so the copper is not absorbed by the goat.

To determine how much copper is available to your goats you can get a soil test done and get your forage tested. Rock River Laboratory located in Wooster offers soil and forage testing. The Wayne County Extension Office does not have the tools to do these tests.

If you believe your goats need copper supplemented to them always consult with your veterinarian before treatment. Just as a reminder effective in June of 2023 all medically important antimicrobials for food-producing animals and pets will move from over-the-counter (OTC) to prescription (Rx). This change impacts any product that contains the following:

  • Oxytetracycline
  • Penicillin
  • Sulfa-based antibiotics (sulfadimethoxine and sulfamethazine)
  • Tylosin
  • Cephapirin and Cephapirin Benzathine
  • Swine medications Lincomycin and Gentamicin100

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Shelby Tedrow is an Ag & Natural Resources Program Assisstant with OSU Extension and can be reached at or 330-264-8722
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.