Yes, goats need copper!
Recently, I was listening to a vet give a lecture on nutrition in class and what I heard amazed me! Being an older gentleman covering a wide spectrum of livestock, he automatically grouped sheep and goats into one broad category and stated with a passion, "Goats and sheep should NEVER be fed copper!" I made sure to firmly press my lips together and hold my tongue. No, I am not a vet. However, there is overwhelming evidence, research, and vets that support the fact that copper is essential for goat health! Unfortunately, this vet did not get the memo.
The vet was halfway right. Yes, sheep should never be fed copper. Trace amounts are deadly to them. The sheep industry is far larger than goats due to the high demand for their meat and fiber; therefore, I have discovered that when it comes to education, many (not all, of course) experts in the field lean on sheep and spend little time on goats. Copper deficiency is a very common, if not one of the most common (if I may be so bold) health problems that goats experience because they require such a relatively large quantity of it. Plus, copper deficiency is often misdiagnosed because it has such an integral part to play in their health, but is often forgotten. Another important point to consider is that because goats have a dental pad in place of upper incisors, they can have a difficult time getting enough minerals from blocks. Providing them loose minerals is an easy solution.
See if any of these symptoms sound familiar to you:
-goats are losing hair on the bridge of their nose and/or tail
-coats are dull
-color changes (i.e. black goats are turning red, etc)
-loss of fertility
-low resistance to parasites
-low immune system (prone to getting ill)
-anemic (despite being dewormed)
The list goes on!
Essentially, I have found copper deficiency to be a leading cause for many health issues. I've also made a habit of scanning the copper ppm in minerals (yes, even goat-specific minerals), and I've found many of them to not have enough. I try to find a source of loose minerals with at least 1500 ppm of copper, but a study by JM Luginbuhl at the NC State University stated that goats receiving 9000ppm of copper didn't experience toxicity. Therefore, it appears the higher ppm of copper, the better results!
I recently discovered New Country Organics increased the copper ppm in their goat minerals to 3000 and experienced great results from their customers. They also have a very informative article about copper deficiency.
Now, a quick story about a personal experience with copper deficiency. After bringing my first baby goats home, I was hyper aware of their health! I got my hands on any research, articles, and books that I could to make sure my kids were the epitome of health. However, I checked their eye lids one day and found them to be white - a clear sign of anemia. I was horrified! Thinking it was surely parasites that were causing the problem, I purchased dewormer recommended by my vet and quickly drenched them. I sighed in relief thinking that I found the solution. After periodically checking their eye lids, I still didn't see any improvement. I finally shrugged my shoulders and thought if they acted healthy and my vet wasn't concerned, then perhaps that was their normal? Time went on and I didn't think much of it. Then I read an article about goats needing at least 1500ppm of copper. So I went to the feedstore and purchased loose goat mineral with 1600ppm of copper and poured it out free choice. The goats acted like I gave them sweet feed! After 2 weeks of feeding them the mineral, I checked their eyelids and noticed for the first time that they were bright red! It appears that copper was the solution to their anemia. Very fascinating!
So the grand experiment of goat health continues.