I recently purchased some adorable Boer goats for my kiddos. If you consider adding goats to your farm family, it’s important to understand their nutritional needs. Salt and other minerals are vital for your goat’s health. See what minerals your goat needs here.
Do goats need salt? Domesticated goats need a salt supplement. Salt is essential to good goat health. Goat salt comes in salt and mineral blocks or loose salt. Unlike wild goats, domesticated goats cannot wander and find the salt they need in their natural environments. Salt blocks or loose minerals are a necessary supplement for goats. Without salt, goats struggle with kidding with bone and joint issues, organ issues, hair loss and coat issues, and greater struggles with parasites.
Today, many goats are kept in regions where wild goats don’t exist. They are confined and fenced in, which means your goats can’t wander hundreds of miles to find the salt and other minerals they need in nature.
Additionally, wild goats drink from lakes and streams. Many of today’s goats drink from water pulled up from underground reservoirs for city use or from individual wells. Underground water tends to be tough water that is high in calcium. As a result, goats don’t absorb nutrients and have an even greater need to have access to supplements than wild goats in the same area.
What Does Mineral Salt Do For Goats?
Goats need a variety of trace minerals to stay healthy. Each mineral helps in specific aspects of goat health.
- Copper: Helps reduce issues with parasites, hair loss, and coat issues. If a goat’s coat becomes dull, starts to turn grey or lighter, it is often a sign of a copper deficiency. Copper also helps prevent reproductive issues, such as a buck not being able to impregnate does, and helps with pregnancy and helps to reduce the mortality rate for kids.
- Selenium: Selenium helps to regenerate tissue and repair cell damage. It improves immune systems. It helps to reduce issues with weak newborn kids, reduces reproductive issues, and helps with birthing issues. Selenium is vital for healthy reproduction across the board!
- Magnesium: A goat low in magnesium will have issues providing enough milk for the kids. A magnesium deficiency can also impact fertility and reduce immunity in kids.
- Zinc: Zinc is essential for healthy sexual maturity and the onset of estrus (basically the female cycle of does). It also helps to repair the walls of the uterus after kidding and helps with joint health.
- Calcium & Phosphorus: Calcium and phosphorus help to prevent milk fever. It strengthens bones and helps ensures healthy kids.
- Salt: Necessary for a healthy heart, muscles, growth, and many other aspects of health. Salt deficiencies will affect almost all parts of a goat’s systems, from its organs to bones, immune system, reproduction, and other systems.
- Iron: Iron helps goats to maintain good health and energy. A goat low in iron will get sick easier, and bucks may have low libido.
These are only a few of the vital trace minerals that goats need to stay healthy.
Can I Use A Cattle Salt Block or Livestock Block?
Many old-time farmers traditionally used block salt for goat needs. Until recent years, goat-specific salt and mineral supplements were not available, and farmers had to make do with available products, even if it meant higher mortality rates with their goat herds. But, that doesn’t mean that using any salt block is ideal.
Today’s goat farmers and owners can extend the average life of their goats. The correct quantity of salt and other vital minerals also helps with reproduction and decreases newborn kid mortality rates.
Goats have specific nutritional needs that are different than cattle, sheep, or pigs. They will not remain healthy without the right combination and quantity of minerals. Using a cattle salt block will leave your goat deficient in many necessary minerals. This is true as well with a sheep salt and mineral block. A sheep salt block will leave your goats deficient in copper and selenium. It’s critical that you use a salt and mineral mix that is formulated specifically for goats.
Cattle salt blocks, sheep blocks, and livestock mineral blocks are not appropriate for goats and will not result in as healthy of a goat or a longer life. Give goats free-will mineral supplements specifically mixed to meet the needs of goats.
What’s Best for Goats: Loose Salt or A Block Salt?
Both mineral blocks and loose salt developed for goats are available. But, which is best? There are pros and cons for each type, with the answer being more of a good and better answer. Loose salt and minerals are the best options for goats. If loose salt and minerals are unavailable or not feasible for another reason, a salt block is an acceptable alternative. But, salt and mineral blocks have definite disadvantages. Let’s look at the pros and cons of both types of supplements.
Salt and Mineral Blocks for Goats
Salt blocks are the most traditional method of supplying mineral supplements to goats because, for a long time, they were the only option. Salt mineral blocks are also referred to as salt licks, salt blocks, or mineral blocks in this article. They can be set out in the pasture for goats to lick. Convenience is one of the biggest benefits of a salt and mineral block.
Mineral blocks can be set outside, left, and require very little maintenance. They are very convenient. They also tend to last longer and are more cost-efficient.
However, that can be deceiving because mineral blocks make it harder for goats to consume enough for their best health. A goat’s tongue is soft, unlike a cow’s tongue, and has a harder time dissolving the salt and minerals from the block for consumption. As a result, many goats don’t get enough of the needed nutrients from a salt block. They may try to scrape the block with their teeth or do without. Both of which will affect their health. Your goats may break teeth, and rarely will they still get enough minerals.
Another problem with salt and mineral blocks is that goats can be quite picky eaters. Contrary to popular culture and kid’s fairy tales, goats won’t eat anything. In fact, if they appear to be chewing on anything, they can-it’s a sign that your goat is nutrient deficient.
If A salt block becomes dirty, grimy, has feces on it, or looks unappealing, your goats won’t eat from it. This can exacerbate their mineral deficiencies.
Pros of Using Goat Mineral Blocks
- Salt Blocks are more convenient than offering loose minerals
- They can be placed in an open field and handle poor weather better
- Many farmers like that salt and mineral blocks last longer than loose minerals
- Salt blocks are often cheaper per serving than loose minerals
- If a farmer doesn’t have the setup for loose minerals, then a salt and mineral block is MUCH BETTER than skipping the supplemental minerals.
Cons of Using Goat Mineral Blocks
- Goats rarely get enough of necessary minerals and are often at least slightly deficient.
- Goats may hurt mouths or teeth trying to scrape minerals off blocks
- Goats won’t eat from dirty or soiled salt blocks
Check out my preferred goat salt block here. Link to the preferred Goat Block on Amazon
Best Practices for Using Goat Salt and Mineral Blocks
If you’ve determined that a salt and mineral block is best for your specific circumstances, or you don’t have access to loose salt (affiliate link), institute these best practices for making your salt block more effective for your goats.
1. Use Salt Block Holders or Raised Structures
Raising salt blocks above ground level helps to keep it clean. It allows water to wash off of it and gets it out of the grime and dirt of the ground. Salt block holders typically have holes in the bottom, so rain or snow can drain out of them.
Placing the salt blocks on cinder blocks, tree stumps, or other raised platforms will also help keep the block clean.
2. Provide a Salt Block for Every 5-10 Goats
Again, it is most probably that a salt block won’t provide enough trace minerals for your goats, and loose salt is preferred. But, a salt and mineral block is much better than nothing. In that case, make sure that you have enough salt blocks for all of your goats to get salt, even those lower in the goat hierarchy.
3. Place Salt Licks About 10 Feet Apart
Placing your salt links about 10 feet apart makes it possible for all of your goats to have access to at least one of the licks. One of the licks will be the most popular, even if they are the same, so placing salt licks a few feet apart allows goats to gather around simultaneously and not fight over them.
4. Add a Replacement Block When the First is Half Gone
A second salt lick should be added when the salt block is about halfway gone. This will help to ensure that enough salt is available. Goats may also lose interest in finishing a salt and mineral block.
5. Keep Salt Mineral Blocks Near Food and Water
Keep your salt and mineral blocks close to water and food. Your goats will use them more frequently when they are accessible and convenient. Don’t make goats trek across your field for a lick. The easier licks are to reach; the more likely goats are to not become as nutrient deficient.
Loose Salt Minerals For Goats
Loose salt and minerals are the best way to offer supplements for goats. Loose minerals provide the ideal way for goats to consume the quantities that they need for optimal health. If you offer a loose salt mix formulated for goats, do not offer an additional salt and mineral block.
Many important minerals taste slightly bitter. The salt in the mineral mix acts as an enticement for goats to eat the other minerals. Salt blocks have a higher concentration of salt. Part of that may be because it’s harder for the goats to lick, and the higher proportion of salt may act as “candy” to the goats, so they keep trying to consume the block.
But, it can also mean that goats don’t eat enough of the loose salt and mineral for their needs. A salt block can entice a goat away from the healthier loose minerals and harm their health in the long run.
Loose minerals that are offered free choice to goats may seem to run out sooner, or that your goats eat a lot more of them. That’s because goats short on minerals will eat a lot at the beginning until their nutritional needs are met, and they balance out. It’s actually a good thing to see the loose minerals disappearing faster than a salt block. It means your goats are getting enough nutrients.
Tips For Offering Loose Salt Minerals To Goats
There are a few things to keep in mind when offering minerals to goats. You want to make sure that all your goats have access to them. Offer enough options that every goat can get when they need. Additionally, loose minerals can be a little more subjected to poor weather. It’s important to store loose minerals in a place where they will be sheltered from the rain. Don’t allow your goats to drink water containing dissolved minerals as they will usually drink too much, and it can become toxic to them.
My goat containers are placed or hung higher than my goats’ heads. I also placed a block below the container so that the goats can stand on the block with their forefeet and reach the mineral dishes. This has helped to keep the containers cleaner. The lower the containers are, the more likely they are to be pooped in, have dirt and grime, or get filthy in other ways.
1. Place Minerals Close to Food and Water
Minerals should be placed within 50 feet of food and water to be convenient and easy to access. Loose minerals are usually offered in smaller containers, which means fewer goats can access them at a time.
2. Set Out Multiple Containers of Loose Mineral Salt
Because the entire bag of loose salt isn’t usually offered at once to goats, it usually is smaller than a block of salt. Offer multiple spots where your goats can access minerals. Multiple access points will make it possible for all of your goats to get access to salt. Aim to one container per 3-5 goats.
3. Place Containers in a Sheltered Place
Loose minerals can become soggy from inclement weather very quickly. Keep them sheltered or protected from rain and snow. Loose minerals will need to be changed frequently to keep them usable. If they are dissolved in water, goats may consume too much salt, which could be harmful.
4. Place Mineral Salt About 10 Feet Apart
Placing mineral salt about 10 feet apart will allow goats to partake of minerals without crowding goats away from other near containers.
5. Place Minerals Higher Than Goat’s Heads.
Goats are pretty picky, and if the minerals get contaminated with feces, dirt, or grime, goats will not consume them as much. Raising the height of the mineral salt will help to keep the salt cleaner. Place a stump, block of wood, cinder blocks, or another kind of step so that goats can stand on the step and reach the minerals.
6. Don’t Let Minerals Run Low
Keep your minerals
Monitor Goat Consumption To Ensure Proper Dosages
One of the most difficult tasks goat owners has to make sure their goats are getting enough of the crucial minerals they need for good health. If goats are not consuming enough, they will still suffer the negative health effects, including joint issues, poor coats, higher newborn kid deaths, and decreased reproductive capabilities, among other issues. Check your mineral salt to make sure that goats are eating enough minerals for the proportions.
Make sure that your goats continue to have a free supply of minerals to consume. Do not let them run out. If your goats run out of minerals, it may appear as if they overeat when you restock their mineral salt. Their consumption will even out as they continue to have access to minerals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will My Goats Overeat Salt or Other Minerals? Goats will not overeat the amount of salt they need if provided with a goat-specific salt and mineral mix. If goats are provided with a salt lick for a different animal, such as one for cattle, they will have the wrong quantities of salt to minerals and miss essential nutrients even as they may consume enough salt. Loose salt and minerals are ideal for goats. baki
Do My Goats Need Baking Soda? Although baking soda can be helpful to your goats if they eat something wrong for them, it does not help them if they have a good diet. Baking soda helps with digestion and indigestion. It reduces the bloat, which occurs when goats eat something they should not have eaten, such as fresh alfalfa or other hay. Bloat can also occur if you change the type of hay they are fed.
Is Table Salt Good for Goats? Goats can consume table salt, but should not be offered table salt as a free-will salt offering. Table salt simply doesn’t have the necessary nutrients to keep goats healthy and consuming table salt will keep goats from eating other minerals offered. Further, table salt is usually supplemented with iodine, a necessary human nutrient. In the same way, goat minerals are a combination of minerals that goats need including copper and selenium.
Why do Pygmy Goats Need a Salt Block? Pygmy goats, as well as all other breeds of goats have specific nutritional needs that include copper, selenium, iron, manganese and other trace minerals. While salt blocks may be the only mineral combination for some goat owners, a loose salt and mineral combination is really better than a salt block. But, if loose salts are not available, a mineral block is much better than nothing, which will harm the health of goats.
Goats need a salt and mineral supplement to ensure quality health. Goat mineral mixes are specific to goat needs and will do a much better job of keeping your goats healthy than other animal salt licks. A loose salt mix is much better than a salt block as it will be easier for your goats to consume and help avoid nutritional deficiencies better.
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