A Diagnosis

8 May

My vet called me yesterday afternoon, and I swear he almost sounded giddy with excitement when he told me that the toxicology report found what was killing my kids.  Copper deficiency.

Ares and Brigit

Now that is crazy because Iowa isn’t one of those places where you have to worry about mineral deficiencies because our soil usually provides plenty of what they need.  Seriously.  When I first got goats and started reading, I even asked my old vet if it was something I needed to worry about, and he said it really wasn’t.  Goats generally require feed with 15 – 20 ppm of copper [1].  I looked at the map for Iowa, and my county averages 16.7 ppm. [2]  It shouldn’t be a problem because I also have a mineral block that has copper in it.


Liver testing should result with a number in the twenties (I can’t remember exactly what the vet said; I think it was 20 – 24).  My kids both both tested at 2.

Joani’s beautiful heroine Persephone

It also explains Harley’s back injury.  In adults, the copper deficiency can cause brittle bones.  It can also cause sway backs, hair loss, anemia, diarrhea, and a whole bunch of other horrors.  It also causes loss of color in their fur. [4]  I wondered why Haley’s belly has gotten lighter in the last year or so.  I just poured my goats for lice because I noticed a couple were losing their fur.

When kids are suffering from copper deficiency in-utero, it causes the progressive degenerative spinal cord problems that I’ve been witnessing. [3]

a healthy Giselle

Now the question is what to do.  I know there is a shot or a bolus we can give, and the immediate treatment of all the goats (but especially the pregnant ones) is our first priority.  In addition, the vet is checking to see if we can do anything for the kids who are showing signs of the degenerative effects. [4]  Again, this is something that is not heard of in my area, so the Iowa State vet referred my vet to another Iowa State vet. The phone tag is a bit unnerving.  It’s important to make sure we dose them correctly, though, because too much copper can be toxic.

a healthy Zeus

Once we get the immediate crisis taken care of (because I think the whole herd really is at a critical point), I’m also looking at a long-term plan to fix the problem.

30 Responses to “A Diagnosis”

  1. bagheeracr at 6:04 pm #

    That’s sure good news.
    I’m glad there is an answer, and hopefully a straightforward maintainable treatment and then prevention plan.

  2. Claire Moxon-Waltz at 6:09 pm #

    Wow! That is really weird for your area, and so unexpected. It seemed so likely to be bacterial or viral or something. I’m really relieved for you that they have figured out the problem, and sad that it has taken this long. If you were living in an area with low copper, the vets in the area would have likely known the tell-tale signs and would have figured it out much sooner. I’m also really surprised because of the mineral lick – I would have thought they’d get plenty. I have to use plain salt because of the sheep (copper is v toxic for sheep) so now I wonder if I should do something more for Nickel, although she doesn’t have any signs. I hope they can work up a treatment plan soon and that it works for everybody, and that it helps keep the June kids healthy. Are they able to do blood tests in future to check levels, or is it only something that can be tested with necropsies?

    • Teresa at 6:15 pm #

      They can do a blood test, but I think this has been getting progressively worse over the years (a future post). We need to treat immediately to try to save them and the kids. I’m hoping the shot they have for cattle that includes copper will be an immediate fix.

      Everything is harder though because not even the ISU vets are sure how to treat properly. I hope to get an answer tomorrow, or I’m going to have to look up a vet school somewhere that they usually deal with it.

      I am guessing my highly erodable hills have leached a lot of the minerals out of the soil. I’m testing the soil/hay to see what the levels are, and then I’ll see if a mineral supplement will work or if I need to do a bolus.

      • Claire Moxon-Waltz at 7:04 pm #

        At least with the blood test, I hope they can check after a few weeks (or whatever the appropriate time period is) and ensure things are getting back on track, and maybe it will be something you can check for intermittently, so it stays in check.

      • Teresa at 7:10 pm #

        We’ll get it figured out. Just need a quick fix first. Never thought I’d be dealing with this.

  3. janicead at 6:19 pm #

    An answer rolled up in another challenge…

  4. becca givens at 6:31 pm #

    So glad answers are available! 🙂

  5. Karen at 7:19 pm #

    That is awesome to be able to start somewhere,,,

    • Annie DiLeo at 7:24 pm #

      We use free choice minerals from goldenblendminerals.com. I’ve heard that some goats do not lick the blocks enough to get what they need. Check the copper content to see if it works for you. The bags get delivered directly to your house. Pricey but well worth it. Good Luck!

      • Annie DiLeo at 7:25 pm #

        OOPS! goldenblendfeeds.com. Sorry.

      • Teresa at 7:45 pm #

        This is not usually an issue in my area. That is the issue. I don’t know why they are deficient. That will mean a lot more testing (and a future blog post) to figure out the cause.

  6. Erika at 8:05 pm #

    Wow, so glad you finally found out what it was but does this also affect your llamas?

    • Teresa at 8:14 pm #

      It shouldn’t. If I remember correctly, they are more like sheep who have much lower requirements for copper.

  7. Jeanne at 8:49 pm #

    That absolutely blew my mind! I’m so thankful they came up with the answer, but still sad over the loss of all the kids, as I’m sure you are also. I look forward to hearing more about the solution.

  8. Welll this is good news and I do hope a quick fix wil help stop more from dying but i iagine working al this out is going to take time and money, you wil know better howthings are when you test the soil and lick to see how much copper there is there

  9. LB at 2:27 am #

    I wonder if it’s something genetic, rather than environmental? Sadly, I have a friend whose child could not absorb copper, similar symptoms, very rare … if your level is 16ppm, which should be sufficient, it might be worth considering?

    I’m so sorry about all this.

  10. Gattina at 2:53 am #

    I just came by to see your lovely goats and read this ! I sincerely hope that they all can get healed ! Must be a big worry for you !

  11. Robyn Nichols at 7:34 am #

    I am so glad you have found the problem. I’m sorry I didn’t comment when you told all of us about the babies dying. I did pray for you, and I will continue to pray that God will help all of you come up with the best solution to help your girls and boys. Have you thought about selling a calendar of your baby photos? They are really good and the subject matter is just precious! 🙂

    • Teresa at 7:42 am #

      I have had calendars for the last 8 years, but nobody buys calendars.

  12. Mary Ann at 8:31 am #

    God bless the vets, that’s all I have to say. I hope you can find a way out of the mess.

  13. Anonymous at 9:21 am #

    oh, wow – so glad you finally have an answer and a path to move forward. — suz in ohio

  14. Coloring Outside the Lines at 5:06 pm #

    Oh my goodness, I am so glad you found out what the problem was! I hope all goes well with treatment. Blessings!

  15. Donna at 10:36 am #

    Hi Teresa,
    We have dealt with copper deficiency here for years in our sheep and goats. I use Copasure boluses twice per year for all my sheep and goats. I used up one 12.5 gram capsule and divide it among 4 gelatin capsules and give it to them with a bolus gun. It is somewhat of a struggle as they do not like to swallow it. But with this I have had no further deaths due to copper deficiency and our liver copper levels are in the low normal range. Our wool quality has improve too as has our parasite issues. Our problem here is due to molybdenum in our soil though, likely not your problem. Because of that issue I also have a cobalt block for the animals to lick. I used to use Cosecure glass boluses from England (which contain cobalt, selenium and copper) but they were expensive so I switched to our new system of just copper boluses and a cobalt lick. I have references for veterinary studies from Europe regarding copper deficiency in sheep there, but it is related to the molybdenum so may not be applicable for you.
    Good luck making things better for your critters.
    Donna

    • Teresa at 10:47 am #

      Thank you. I am guessing my problem comes from high iron or wetlands leaching copper out of the soil. I have sent my hay off for analysis.

    • Teresa at 5:23 pm #

      Oh! I have to tell you that I’ve had two good tips for giving them the bolus–put it in a marshmallow or replace the seed from a date with the bolus. I have been assured the love both of them!

      • Donna at 1:40 pm #

        The marshmallow things did not work for us. Maybe I will try dates.

  16. Edith at 6:17 pm #

    I have always read about a goat’s tail looking “fish-tailed” when copper levels were low. I have been looking at some of your past pictures and cannot spot this detail in any of them. In hindsight did that happen? I am asking because I use that as a way to monitor my goats, kinda like you would eye membranes for anemia. If that did not happen with your goats, it is not a reliable tell of copper deficiency.

    • Teresa at 7:46 pm #

      I found one with a fish tail, and I think I remember Wanda’s doing that a couple years ago, but my goats are really critical. They are at death’s door because no vet around here ever thought of it and doesn’t know about it because “we don’t usually have to worry about those kinds of things here.”

  17. Ty at 5:57 pm #

    I have been told by my vets not to give copper bolus to milking goats. Not sure why but I never do.
    I’m sorry for all your loss we have been through everything you can think of except a loss from predetors. I’ve wanted to give up from loosing goats and feeling like it was all my fault and wondering why everyone else seems to never have any problems and I lose goats for dumb reasons had one hang herself on a fence with a plastic break away collar. Had a baby drown. Wmd, interstical pneumonia, mastitis, worms, entrotoxcemia, lots of unknown cause.

    Racked up a lot of bills for a hobby. I love them and we have been doing good since knock on wood but I worry all the time and think maybe I shouldn’t have them if I’m a death sentence for them.

    I love them and all my animals my husband says it’s a farm and it happens but I hate it and cry all the time.

    • Teresa at 6:20 pm #

      I hear you. They do break your heart. I’ll have to check on the copper and milk goats; although the alternative is death.

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