Vitamin Supplements for Goats
Goat Farming in South Africa

© Marinda Louw
This feeding mix consists of veld grass straw and whole mealies - the latter a good source of vitamin A.

Goats are intelligent animals and range free to eat herbs, weeds and other deep-rooted plant material, which has a relatively high mineral content. Goats require energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre (bulk) and water, of which protein is the most expensive. Imbalances of vitamins and minerals can limit animal performance and lead to various health problems. Fibre is necessary to maintain a healthy rumen environment and prevent digestive disturbances, while water is the cheapest feed ingredient and often the most neglected.

Vitamins Needed for Goats

Vitamin A improves resistance to diseases and a deficiency can cause poor conception, abortion, eye diseases, respiratory problems and diarrhoea. A goat’s digestive system produces vitamin A from carotene, which exists in mealies, carrots and green forage, but is deficient in old hay and grazing.

Vitamin D is essential for proper absorption of calcium and phosphorous and plenty of sunshine is needed to get enough vitamin D. A deficiency can cause poor growth.

Vitamin E is important for milk quality and reproduction. Vitamin E is found in most fresh feeds, but oxidizes rapidly so that old hay and grounded grains become poor sources. A deficiency causes the degeneration of the heart and skeletal muscle. Muscle fibres become pale and hence the name ‘white muscle disease’. The condition is unlikely to occur on pasture or grazing and animals that are not grazing should be given good quality hay.

Vitamins C and K are present in grass and hay. They can also be manufactured by the bacteria in the rumen (vitamin K) or in the liver and kidneys (vitamin C).

Goats and other ruminants have bacteria in their rumen that synthesise the B vitamins but parasites in the gut can remove certain B vitamins. Lack of these vitamins can lead to cerebrocortical necrosis, a condition that causes nervous symptoms such as head pressing, the head pushing back and up) and involuntary eye movement as well as paddling movements of the limbs. It can also cause blindness. This results from necrosis (dying) of cells in the cortex of the brain due to a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1).

Dr Carel Muller warns: Goats can suffer from copper poisoning when too much copper is ingested in their diet. Do not allow goats to eat chicken feed, copper supplements, mineral salts, or anything else with added copper to it.

Please note: Information is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as feeding or nutritional advice. For more information on feeding your goats contact your animal health technician, veterinarian or animal feed supplier.

By Marinda Louw