Copper Bolusing Your Goats

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Nutrients are a vital part of a goat's life and as such, it is up to us to ensure they are getting what they need. One nutrient in particular with which some goats struggle is copper. This is in large part because grain itself does not contain enough copper. Another problem is that hay can be heavy with other minerals that actually can block copper absorption. In a case such as this, you may think you are dosing your goats with ample copper but it is simply being passed through their bodies without benefit, resulting in a deficiency.

Copper deficiency in goats knows no boundaries. It can affect any goat breed, any gender, and strike at any age. The main indicator of such a deficiency is their coat appearance. It will be long and shaggy, course and rough, faded and bleached in appearance. Also a clue is the shape of their tails. If you have a goat with either a bald tail tip or a tail on which hair has split to create the appearance of a fish tail, additional copper is likely necessary.

The fact of the matter is that although you may not always see physical signs, a copper deficiency of some degree is probably present in a lot of goats. There is simply not enough of it available in their natural diet to fulfill their need for copper. Because of this, we have to offer copper as a supplement, but there's a trick to that, too. For example, copper sulfate is more difficult for the body to absorb than copper chelate, and buying copper chelate exclusively can get pricy. Most people use loose minerals as a solution to the copper deficiency with which they are faced; this is a good way to bring up all sort of nutrient levels but sometimes still is not enough when it comes to getting enough copper into and retained by your goats. If you opt for this method of solving deficiency issues, be sure the loose minerals you are buying are marketed for goats and have no less than 1500 parts per million (ppm, also sometimes written as milligrams per liter or mg/L) of copper.

Copper Bolusing Your Goats - GPS1504 - krazo-acres-176.jpg
Photo: Krazo Acres

Since mineral absorption can be tricky at times, another option that is extremely effective for getting goats the copper they need is copper bolusing. This is done by feeding goats a pill capsule that is essentially filled with very small copper rods. Once swallowed, the pill capsule dissolves and the copper rods lodge into the rumen where they deliver a dose of copper on a consistent basis for several months, effectively eliminating the copper deficiency until the rods have broken down and the next dose is due.

In order to use copper boluses, you must first get the dosage right. They are sold in different dosages, so be sure to get one that is intended first of all for goats and second of all for the size of goats in question, such as kids versus adults. The ideal dose is 1 gram of copper for every 20 pounds the goat weighs, so you may find that buying different doses and mixing and matching is necessary to get to the precise dose.

In order to actually give the copper bolus, you first need to ensure your goats have an empty stomach so the bolus will be retained rather than flushed out with food. When administering, you do not want the goat to chew the copper, so a balling gun is a useful tool during this process. Once the bolus is down the hatch, you should avoid feeding the goat for a few more hours to fully allow it to work its magic; feeding too soon will also flush it out.

In addition to treating a copper deficiency, copper bolusing plays an important role in parasite management. Goats with this deficiency may not have the same ability to fight off parasites as those without it, but adding copper will swing the odds back in their favor. Ultimately there is a lot of good to be gained from the act of copper bolusing, making it a wise choice for any goat herd in need of copper.

Are you a believer in copper bolusing? Have you noticed a positive change in your goats after doing so? Tell us about it in the comments.

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February 1, 2016  •  12:27 PM
I had thought there was enough copper in the Purina Noble Goat??? I have not used copper bolus's due to this.Would you also recommend doing this on Does? And at what age would you start? Thank you for anyone who can help.
February 27, 2016  •  08:01 PM
I don't use Purina Noble Goat but from what I have read, copper deficiency can cause a list of issues.Goats need copper in a consistant level to grow bones and muscle,keep their arterial walls functioning and maintain reproductive fertility.Boluses are sized for kids and adults and are determined by weights in each group.I purchased my supplies from Santa Cruz Animal Health.I have just recently administered these to my entire herd(30 animals) because I feel they all can benefit.Hope this gives them an edge to a long,healthy life.
April 1, 2016  •  11:10 AM
We copper bolus our herd regularly, and it definitely makes a difference in the quality of their coats, hoof health, horn health, and their ability to maintain appropriate weight. Our area is high in iron, which can block copper absorption, so we bolus 2-4 times a year as needed.
July 25, 2016  •  08:19 PM
I'd heard that the dosage is 1 gram for every 20-22 pounds for liquid copper, and 1cc for every 40 pounds of copper rods (bolus). No? Dosage is the same for both types of copper?
October 20, 2016  •  08:34 AM
My Nubians have free choice loose minerals with copper at the rate of 1500 ppm. Should I also be giving a bolus? I don't want to overdo it, but I do want to ensure that they are getting enough.
October 20, 2016  •  07:02 PM
@PumpkinQueen Do your Nubians have any signs that they are not getting enough copper?
October 25, 2016  •  11:36 PM
Absolutely Copper Bolus is important in goats! It is difficult to get it down them without them chewing it, at least on some of the goats it was. I have read where it sometimes isn't so bad if they chew it, but don't know if that is true or not. I can say that the health and overall appearance truly improved after giving our goats copper. Plus, we lost a kid to sway back, which is a direct result of the doe/his mom/not having enough copper. After watching this sad little goat die of sway back, we have vowed to never have that happen again if we could avoid it by giving copper bolus, it is a NO BRAINER! Had we known more about copper earlier, we would have given it sooner, but a month before delivery wasn't enough for the poor little kid who developed sway back after he was about 8 weeks old. His twin survived, but he succumbed to it.
November 23, 2016  •  02:04 AM
How often is too often to bolus? I thought twice a year was average but I see some people bolus more often.
December 28, 2016  •  10:08 AM
I have never used copper bolus before. What dosage would I use for Nigerian dwarfs. Where would I buy it. And can I give it while using the milk for ourselves or pregnant does or breeding bucks.Is there any time they should not be given the bolus.
April 18, 2017  •  06:30 PM
would copper sulfate be enough and how much and often mixed in water?
April 30, 2017  •  05:55 AM
@bluenosegoatkeeper - Copper sulfate is not well-absorbed in goats. The boluses (of copper oxide metal) are the only known way to get enough copper in a goat.
April 30, 2017  •  06:02 AM
I would just like to add 2 helpful resources for those wanting more information on copper deficiency and how to use boluses:

Happy bolusing!
April 30, 2017  •  06:09 AM
@Mandara Farm - Dosing according to the Saanendoah website (in my comment above) is 1 gram copper oxide in bolus form per 22 pounds at five to six month intervals.
April 30, 2017  •  07:11 AM
The Saanendoah website is useful, but bear in mind it is 10 years old and not updated. It's not clear that the copper oxide rods are more effective given in a bolus as opposed to just putting them in a treat for the goat to eat. People who have had necroscopies of their goats livers have shown adequate copper levels with feeding the copper rods in treats, but maybe they had to dose a little more frequently that way because the rods would get broken up if the goat chews them?

No research I could find shows that withholding feed before and after bolusing is necessary, either.

This page has some interesting discussion:
June 15, 2017  •  10:02 PM
Have any of you ever used Replamin? It's a MAAC. Our ND breeder says she uses this. I like the idea of a gel because the bolus can be hard to administer and unpleasant for the owner and the goat. Ours are obviously pets! :D