Goats require selenium for optimum health. Unfortunately, soil in much of the United States, and other countries, is deficient in selenium. When soil is lacking in selenium, so are the grains and hay that are produced from the deficient area.
What is selenium? Selenium is a trace mineral essential to health, but needed only in small amounts. Selenium is important to a goat for proper gait, healthy pregnancies, and strong kids that grow well. Selenium deficiency can lead to White Muscle Disease (commonly - newborn kids with weak legs) and can affect the immune system as well.
How can selenium deficiency be prevented?
- Check to see if the soil in your area is deficient. Use as an example only – an older map of selenium status in the United States can be found here. If you are unsure if your area has a selenium deficiency, ask your county agriculture extension office, a local goat club, or find an online group with members that raise goats in your area.
- If your area is deficient, supplement your goats throughout the year with quality minerals that contain both selenium and vitamin E (and other needed minerals, such as copper).
- An annual injection of selenium may also be needed.
Can too much selenium be given to a goat? Yes! When injecting a goat with a selenium supplement, follow your veterinary instructions very carefully. We use an injection called Bo-Se (a combination of selenium and vitamin E). The prescribed amount is 1 ML per 40 lbs of goat weight. If a kid is born weak, for example, and the kid weighs 10 lbs, we give an injection of no more than 1/4 ml. Too much selenium can be toxic! Follow instructions carefully. Toxicity does not normally occur from feeds containing selenium, but toxicity does occur from injections. Too much selenium results in the same symptoms as a lack of, and the toxicity normally cannot be reversed.
What are the signs of selenium deficiency? Weak legs. Kids born dead or too weak to nurse. Stunted growth. Poor coats. Poor gait. A lack of milk. Abortions and kids that are resorbed (fetus absorbed by the doe early in pregnancy).
What do we do on our farm to prevent selenium deficiency? Loose mineral supplementation. Feed alfalfa mix hay in additional to pasture. A selenium vaccine is given during gestation, 30-45 days prior to the doe’s due date (assists both the doe and the unborn kid, boosts birthing strength as well). Supplementing the bucks in a deficient area will also help prevent immune diseases, and will assist with the production of semen.
As always, be cautious with any injections, supplements or medications. Follow your veterinarian’s advice. Educate yourself. Remember, though, do what works best for your farm and your region! For example, management practices that work in Southern California may not work in Ohio due to a difference in climate, soil, and the overall condition of your animals.