Why Supplement Copper?
Copper deficiencies both in the soil and in feed can lead to fading coat colors, hair loss on the tip of the tails, general unthriftiness, parasitism, etc. Though goat minerals (loose or block form) DO have copper added, it typically isn’t near enough to balance out the copper deficiencies in the hay, weeds and grass the goats are eating daily.
Copper oxide wire particles were developed for copper deficiency in cattle, but they have also been found to reduce parasite loads in sheep and goats. The form of copper used in copper oxide wire particles is absorbed very slowly, reducing the risk of copper toxicity.
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA), copper oxide wire particles (COWP) have been proven to be an effective method of controlling H. contortus (barber pole worm) in sheep and goats. While COWP have shown positive results in reducing parasite loads, they should not be the only method of parasite control used. Research continues on the use of COWP to determine the most effective treatments for sheep and goats.
The exact mechanism of how copper wire particles control internal parasites is not yet fully understood. The added copper may also help to boost the immune system. Both effects help to manage internal parasites. COWP can be an effective component of a holistic parasite management strategy.
The Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control (SCSRPC) has an article which describes how copper oxide wire particles can be used to treat internal parasites in sheep and goats. The publication contains information on how to make boluses of copper wire oxide particles, and reports results of studies on the effectiveness of this treatment. Click here to read more about this study.
Where Do I Get the Copper?
Copper oxide wire particles are sold in capsules sized specifically for adult goats (over 50 lbs) and kids (under 50 lbs). They may be purchased either straight from Santa Cruz Animal Health or through Amazon.com. I’ve found Amazon tends to be slightly less expensive, plus has free shipping (at the time of this posting).
How Much Copper Do I Give?
Based on our veterinarian’s recommendation we have been using the following dosages for COWP orally with good success:
0.5 gram – goats 30lbs and under
1 – 2 grams – goats 31lbs – 50lbs
1.5 – 3 grams – goats 51lbs – 90lbs
2 – 4 grams – goats over 90lbs
The higher end of the dosage is used more for help with parasite control (prolonging the period between dewormings), while the lower end of the dosage is typically used as a starter for signs of copper deficiency. Based on the USDA info found here these dosages are well within the safe range and as with all mineral supplement the smallest portion needed should be given first before giving a higher dosage.
Our veterinarian recommends giving copper every 3-4 months for the best results with parasite resistance. You may notice the packaging on the UltraCruz copper says a single dose typically lasts 8 months – 1 year. Based on the x-rays we’ve had taken of a goat dosaged with COWP I highly doubt there would be much, if any, copper remaining after 6 months. Be sure to discuss copper supplement with your vet if you have any questions or concerns.
Pill a Goat? Are You Serious?
Many breeders give each goat a capsule filled with a COWP. There are a couple problems with trying to give a capsule to a goat because:
#1 it’s NOT as easy as it sounds to pill a goat!
#2 If you don’t know what you are doing you could harm the trachea of the goat with the balling gun (the tool typically used to give pills to livestock).
My favorite method of giving COWP is the marshmallow method. Simply open the capsule and pour the COWP into half of a large marshmallow.
Place the marshmallow inside the goat’s mouth and over the back of the tongue to get them to eat it. Once they taste the marshmallow they should easily swallow it and may even look for more. If your goats are accustomed to being hand-fed treats this method will work much easier than if your goats have never been offered one before. (I do not recommend feeding marshmallows as a regular treat due to the high sugar content.)
I discussed with our veterinarian the possibility of using other methods to give the COWP (aka copper rods) instead of having to bolus a capsule down the throat of every goat. Our veterinarian graciously offered to help me with my study of the marshmallow method of administration versus bolusing a filled gelatin capsule.
In the x-rays below the copper rods can be clearly seen in 2 different sections of the rumen. The larger section of copper rods are still being held together by some marshmallow. It’s important to use the smallest amount of marshmallow needed, because too much marshmallow may prevent the rods from embedding in the rumen as they are intended.
In the x-rays below there are many copper rods in 3 different sections of the rumen, but the individual rods are so tiny they aren’t visible in the photos as they are in the x-rays themselves. The group of copper rods you can see in these photos are what remains from the copper rods clumped in marshmallow on the previous x-rays.
After reviewing these radiographs our veterinarian, Dr. Justin Mims, feels certain that this method of giving the copper oxide wire particles in marshmallow works just as well as bolusing with a gelatin capsule. The marshmallow makes the copper much easier to give and has the added benefit of less stress to the goat.
We’ve also had some success giving the capsule in a small bit of peanut butter or molasses and then pushing it far to the back of the goat’s mouth with a finger. (CAUTION, goats have sharp molars on top and bottom in the back of their mouths and can chomp down on your finger!) This method leaves your hand a sticky mess, but worth trying if you find the marshmallow method difficult.
What about Copasure?
Before the goat sized capsules came on the market, those of us giving copper had to use the cattle boluses. I’m leaving the below info up for those who still have and want to use Copasure 12.5 gm.
The Copasure 12.5 gm are huge cattle sized gel capsules of COWP. To dosage it down to a correct size for your goats you will need to open the capsules and weigh the COWP using a grams scale.
I used a scale we already had that measured in grains and simply converted the grains to grams, but any grams or similar scale will work.
(Side Note: We no longer use the Copasure brand now that the UltraCruz goat sized COWP are available.)
***Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. The information on this page is based on information gathered from long time goat breeders, veterinarians and our past experiences. This is not intended to replace professional veterinary and/or medical advice. We disclaim all liability in connection with the use of these products and/or information.
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