Why cattle and horse mineral supplements don’t meet the true needs of goats

For years, goat producers have had to “make do” with the available mineral supplements, since there have been very few — if any — goat-specific products on the market. Many producers who fed their sheep and goats minerals quit doing so after having to deal with copper deficiency problems or being warned not to by fellow goat producers. The logical progression from there, for many, was to use cattle or horse minerals — and some of you may even still be feeding these types of minerals to your goats. As such, here is some food for thought about mineral supplementation for goats.

Goat mineral needs

Relatively speaking, the mineral needs of goats are similar to those of cattle; both species require the same minerals in roughly the same proportions. For example, a 1,000-pound beef cow requires roughly 10–40 grams of calcium per day, while a 200-pound meat doe requires roughly 0.5–25 grams of calcium per day. The cow requires roughly 30–90 milligrams of copper, and the doe requires roughly 25–55 milligrams of copper. As you can see, the two species have similar needs, but their expected supplement intake is drastically different: cattle consume a much greater amount (on average, 2 to 8 ounces of mineral supplement per head per day) than do goats (0.25 to 1 ounce of mineral supplement per head per day). Since goats eat so much less, they require a much more concentrated mineral supplement than what is being fed to cattle.

Most cattle supplements are designed for 2- to 8-ounce consumption rates, depending on the type of supplement provided (i.e., loose mineral, cooked block, pressed block, etc.). Conversely, a goat can be expected to consume around 0.3–1 ounce of mineral supplement, depending on its size, breed and mineral nutrition status. Since a goat cannot be expected to consume as much as a cow, a product designed to be fed to cattle delivers a much smaller amount of the target minerals than would a more concentrated goat product.

For example, let’s consider a loose mineral supplement for cattle with a copper concentration of 200 ppm and a target intake level of 5 ounces. To determine the amount of copper delivered, multiply 200 ppm by 5 ounces and divide that number by 35.2 (conversion factor). The equation gives us an answer of 28, meaning that five ounces of this product will deliver 28 milligrams of copper to the animal. This is problematic, however, since we can't realistically expect a goat to consume 5 ounces of a loose mineral supplement. At the more realistic expectation of 1 ounce of consumption, however, this product will deliver 5.7 milligrams of copper ([200 ppm x 1 oz] ⁄ 35.2 = 5.7 mg). As you can see, feeding this mineral at a realistic consumption level will not meet the 25–55 milligram copper requirements of this doe.

What if I'm using a cattle or horse mineral?

Despite the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” if you are currently using cattle or horse minerals — and even if you are happy with your results — experimenting with goat-specific mineral supplementation could show you whether or not those minerals would help improve your production levels. Optimum mineral nutrition positively influences such production parameters as the number of days open, hoof health, immunity and average daily gain, among others. Goats being supplemented with cattle or horse minerals are probably not receiving the mineral levels necessary to optimize their performance or fulfill their genetic potential.

Last but not least

When no other products are available, cattle or horse minerals are better for goats than no supplementation at all, as they supply some much-needed copper. However, cattle and horse mineral supplements are not concentrated enough to fulfill 100 percent of the mineral nutrition needs of goats. As such, whenever possible, use a mineral supplement designed specifically for goats, such as SWEETLIX® 16:8 Meat Maker® or SWEETLIX® Magnum Milk Mineral.

For more information, contact your local SWEETLIX dealer or call 1-87-SWEETLIX to speak with a SWEETLIX nutritionist.