Mineral deficiency? Or is it toxicity?
#1
We had a rough kidding season here at Goat-O-Rama. Every single mama needed help delivering. All four kids born to Jezebel and Delilah had one or both legs back, and both does had a hard time pushing them out. Nubbin had a breech baby and a baby with both legs back. The third came out normally all by himself, but he was the ONLY one properly presented out of eight kids delivered this season. Tigerlily's kid was the worst of all. His head was so far back his nose was touching his tail and he had no legs presented at all. The only thing I felt going in was a hairy little shoulder. He didn't make it, poor thing. Four out of seven kids had crooked legs when they were born--two so severely they had to be splinted for a day. Luckily everyone has straightened out as they've grown. 

These crooked legs, malpresentations, and other birthing difficulties all point to selenium deficiency. We also have very obvious copper deficiency which started back in early April. I got right on it and gave everyone a copper bolus (some got two), and it did absolutely nothing at all. In fact, all the goats got worse as spring progressed. In looking at the mineral content of our soil, there is absolutely no reason why we should ever be copper or especially selenium deficient! Selenium poisoning is common in my area as we have some of the highest selenium content in the country around here. Everything points to selenium deficiency, but it cannot be due to lack of access, and same with copper. We feed a good loose mineral, but even without it our pasture should provide adequate minerals to keep the goats healthier than what we experienced. 

I decided it can't be a proper deficiency because we have everything here they need. It has to be caused by something blocking the goats' uptake of these minerals. I did more research and discovered molybdenum poisoning. Our soil has very high molybdenum content. I also fed a lot more alfalfa this past winter than I've ever fed, and alfalfa tends to be high in molybdenum. Legumes such as alfalfa absorb a lot more molybdenum from the soil than grasses, and if grown in a high-molybdenum area like ours we could end up feeding toxic levels of it. Molybdenum binds with copper and selenium in the digestive tract and prevents those minerals from being absorbed, resulting in "secondary" copper and selenium deficiency. So by feeding a high quality alfalfa all winter, I inadvertently set my goats up for molybdenum poisoning. Since I'm sure our own soil contains a lot of molybdenum as well, my goats had no way to avoid eating it even after I stopped feeding alfalfa this spring. I'm going to switch back to grass hay this winter and feed alfalfa more sparingly and see what happens. 

Here are a couple of articles about molybdenum and how it creates copper deficiency. They don't really discuss selenium, but I believe it can be blocked by excess molybdenum as well.  
http://www.cattletoday.com/archive/2003/May/CT271.shtml
https://www.canadiancattlemen.ca/2009/05...r-forages/
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#2
Getting minerals right is a complicated business isn't it? There are so many interdependencies and links between them. Thanks for the links, I will read the articles with interest.
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
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#3
Hey Nanno, the leg thing is often times related to the kid not having enough room. We usually get a couple of kids each year that seem to have gotten stuck in one position in the womb and never got a chance to stretch their ankles. As for the selenium, I know you live in an area thats high in it. It could be more of a toxicity then a deficiency. Its a little spendy but if you can take blood from 4-6 of your adults and send it in to WSU, they can do a blood mineral analysis. Its not as solid as a liver sample but can give you an idea were you stand on your 4 main minerals.
Pack Goat Prospects For Sale. http://trinitypackgoats.webs.com

S.E. Washington (Benton City)
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#4
Dave, you stated in another thread that you wanted to look into the link between alfalfa and mineral deficiencies. You might take a look at the two articles I linked in the first post. Since your goats are dry lotted, you have the perfect set-up to do an experiment. You could feed your normal alfalfa diet to one group of goats and try giving half or two-thirds high quality grass hay with alfalfa to another group and see what difference it makes. I love what alfalfa does for our milk production, but I think I need to balance it out with more grass to keep from having another copper/selenium crisis next spring, especially since my goats have free access to our molybdenum-rich pasture.
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#5
Hey Nanno. I did some research. When you mentioned molybdenum, it rang a bell. I was going to post this days ago but forgot. Turns out were were on the same path. Molybdenum fertilizer is used heavily by hay farmers. So its not technically the alfalfa that causes the binding of minerals. I am just getting deeper in to this so cant speak to the facts yet. Guessing its mainly just another toxic metal. The crap thing is, moly fertilizers are cheap so farmers use em and makes me wonder, if moly is used in human consumables and if so how heavily is it used? I will at the least start adding the suggestion for people to talk to their hay grower and find out if they use a fertilizer with moly in it.
Pack Goat Prospects For Sale. http://trinitypackgoats.webs.com

S.E. Washington (Benton City)
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#6
Almost none of the local hay here is fertilized. However, we live in a super-molybdenum rich area. It's in our soil. One thing that is pointed out in several articles is that legumes such as alfalfa absorb and hold more molybdenum than grass, and this should remain true whether it's supplied through fertilizer or though the soil.

I don't want anyone to think that I'm totally against alfalfa now. I think it just goes back to the old adage, "All things in moderation." Just because something is good doesn't necessarily mean more is better. I plan to try feeding mostly grass this winter with 1/3 - 1/4 alfalfa and see how it goes. I may cut the alfalfa out entirely next spring when our pasture starts coming in. Spring was when I really noticed our goats starting to suffer and I think it's because they were already at a tipping point on molybdenum, and when our grass came in it sent them over the toxicity line. I'm also leaving a copper fortified block out now in addition to our regular loose minerals. When I first put the copper block out (along with a regular trace mineral block) the goats wildly preferred the copper one. It's a 50 lb. cattle block and it's over 1/3 gone already. I'm going to make sure to keep one out over the winter because just as molybdenum binds copper, copper binds molybdenum and so getting extra copper into their systems should help prevent molybdenum toxicity.
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