Article Index "Helping Our Goats To Optimum Health (Part 3)" Article Index

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By: "Linda Carlson"
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Again, I want to make clear that I am not a Doctor or Veterinarian. Nor is the following information intended to replace professional Veterinarian care. I am sharing information that I have learned through experience, study and reading. Some parts of this article are my personal opinions, while others are facts and ideas that come from books and studies that I have read.

What do vitamins have to do with a healthy animal? Vitamins regulate the many chemical processes in the body including those that convert food into energy and into living tissue. At least 12 different vitamins are known to be required for good health. They are separated into 2 classes:

#1. Water-soluble (dissolve in water. Are easily absorbed and excreted. Are not easily stored).
#2. Fat Soluble (Need fat to be absorbed into and transported through the bloodstream. Dissolve in fat. Can be stored in the body).

Vitamins are found in most foods. Some of the most common vitamins needed and their basic functions are:

  • Vitamin A: Promotes growth and repair of body tissues, bone formation, healthy skin & hair. Essential for night vision & immune system.
  • Vitamin E: Helps protect cells from free radical injury. Serves as an antioxidant, may help protect against heart problems & some cancers. Needed for normal growth and development.
  • Vitamin C: Promotes healthy cell development, wound healing, and resistance to infection. Serves as an antioxidant and may help protect against certain cancers & heart problems. Promotes iron absorption.
  • Vitamin B Complex: (all 8 below are included in a Vitamin B Complex)
  • B1 (Thiamin): Essential for converting carbohydrates to energy. Needed for normal functioning of the nervous system and muscles, including heart muscle.
  • B2 (Riboflavin): Helps in red blood cell formation, nervous system functioning and release of energy from foods. Needed for vision. Niacin: Promotes release of energy from foods and proper nervous system functioning.
  • B6 (Pyridoxine): Essential for protein metabolism, nervous system and immune function. Involved in synthesis of hormones and red blood cells.
  • Folic Acid: Needed for normal growth and development and red blood cell formation. Reduces risk of birth problems. My reduce risk of heart problems.
  • B12: Vital for blood formation and healthy nervous system.
  • Biotin: Assists in metabolism of fatty acids and utilization of B vitamins.
  • Pantothenic acid: Aids in normal growth and development.

Lastly is Vitamin D: Aids in absorption of calcium (and other minerals). Helps build bone mass and prevent bone loss. Helps maintain blood levels of calcium, phosphorus. The best place to get vitamin D is SUNLIGHT.

Vitamin D is crucial to over all health. Without it many of the needed minerals, especially calcium, don't get absorbed into the body. Thank goodness our animals, unlike us human folk, are exposed to many hours of sunlight and are able to get a great deal of natural vitamin D so that their bodies may readily absorb the much needed minerals.

So, how do we know if our animals are getting enough vitamins? One thing is for sure. They are not readily available as are the minerals we feed free choice. Certainly we would like to think they are getting enough from their food sources. Unfortunately, itís highly un-likely. Especially given the nature of their diet. The closest they can come to getting the necessary vitamins they need is to be on excellent pasture at all times. And to have the grasses and plants needed to supply all the necessary vitamins growing in that pasture. Basically this is unrealistic for most breeders. Even if we have some pastureland available part of the year, most of us have to feed hay during the rest of the year. And we already know that once grass is cut it is dead. Once it is dead it starts to loose its potency.

So do we need to be giving vitamin supplements? In my opinion, the answer to that is a BIG YES. If you agree with me your next question is how? We certainly cannot put them out free choice like we do their minerals and expect them to eat it. True, Vitamins taste & smell terrible and even if our animals know they need it, they are not going to eat it, with some exceptions I suppose. Animals are used to getting their vitamins from plant sources. The plants don't have the horribly unpleasant smell and taste that vitamin supplements do. So how do we get these vitamins into them?

One way that works for me is to mix them into their grain. I buy vitamins for my animals in powder form. I mix it into the grain and add a touch of honey or molasses and some warm water. The warm water is so I can mix it all up and make the vitamins stick to the grain. This way there is no waste with the loose powder going to the bottom of the pan. The honey or molasses is, of course, to help hide the vitamin taste & smell. This method has worked well. My goats eat every last bite. I have seen it work with success with horses and rabbits too. With dogs and cats we don't need to add the honey or molasses. My pets get a little special treat every day. A small amount of raw hamburger, eggs or anything else you pet may enjoy that you can mix the vitamins into and they will eat it. Sometimes its try until you find what works. If I feel an animal is ill or in need of strong doses, I simply mix the vitamins with more water for easy swallowing and give it orally.

Some vitamins are not as strong, thus, more readily eaten by animals such as Vitamins C and E. Others have a stronger smell and taste such as the Vitamin B family. So, itís less B per feeding and given more often. Another thing that I have found to help get them to eat it is adding herbs that they seem to like. For me this is a good thing because I give my animals beneficial herbs on a regular basis.

So, do they need all those vitamins supplemented? If our animals are not confined under cover, and are allowed to get all the sunshine they desire, they are, most likely, making enough natural Vitamin D within their body to do its crucial job. However, if they are confined under cover or reside in an area that is overcast much of the time they may need to be supplemented with more Vitamin D. As for the rest of the list, I would say YES. They need A, C and E and Vitamin B most of all. If you noticed, there was quite a list of B's under Vitamin B Complex. They need them all and thatís why using a Vitamin B complex is best rather then trying to use the B's in separate form.

How much do we give them? Again, I want to make the point that itís highly unlikely that we would ever give them "to much" to cause any harm. Just like minerals, the body will pass through what it does not need.

Some animal breeder rely on the human RDA as a guideline and adjust for body weight. They do this because the information is more readily found. Others of us rely more on facts and research that has been done in this field. Believe me there is a big difference regarding proper dosage of nutrients between the two. This is a hugh, mind-twisting topic. And its one that is for those of use who, actually enjoy reading long, boring studies.

But, I have to inject a personal opinion here (shared by many). The Drug companies do not study natural nutrients. Nor do they have any interest in funding research or advocating the use of natural nutrients. Why? #1. Money!!! They make billions of dollars world wide selling pharmaceutical prescriptions. #2. THEY CAN'T patent a natural resource. They can only patent drugs. Which brings us back to #1. Money. The only way they can make money is to develop, support and sell drugs. My personal belief (shared by many scientists, Doctors, Veterinarians and even Nobel Prize winners) is that both people and animals can consume many times over what the RDA states on bottles of nutrients. This is not just a theory. Its been proven by many studies on both people and animals. Itís also a known fact that there are cultures of people and animals living on this planet that live very long healthy lives, virtually disease free that consume 70 times the RDA for calcium. 22 times the RDA for magnesium. 18 times the RDA for Potassium. 126 times the RDA of iron, and so on. And they spend many hours in the sun every single day. Which is supposed to be bad from you. Have you ever seen an animal with sun induced cancer?

Nutrient trained Veterinarians have long recognized the importance of mineral and vitamin supplements. Due to this, many animal foods are full of these supplements. Some horse and dog foods can contain 60 nutrient supplements while people are eating foods that are more depleted of these life-sustaining nutrients. So, as long as these animals are eating these "animal" foods and not people foods, they remain relatively disease free.

There is a lot of information out there on nutrients/supplements. So much that it becomes extremely confusing to many. There are pro's and con's about each one and claims of all kinds. The best any of us can do is to draw our own conclusions and use our own judgment and/or enlist the help of a person knowledgeable in the field.

At this point it is apparent how important the proper amounts of vitamins are to our animals.

As I have said, almost everything regarding nutrients/supplements for humans, basically applies to our animals as well. We are all from the same family. I highly suggest the following reading. The Calcium Factor by Robert R. Barefoot & Dr. Carl J. Reich. MD.

In part 4 of this series the topic will be Herbs.

About the author: Linda Carlson has owned and raised a variety of livestock and pets for more than 35 years. At this time she raises a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats along with her husband, on a small farm in central Montana.

She has dedicated much of her time over the last 10 years to learning about natural nutrients and alternatives. Specifically, the benefits of natural nutrients for optimum health for people and animals. She enjoys sharing what she has learned with others through conversations, writing and on her website "Natures Power". She shares her information based on personal experience, experiences of others, books and studies done on the topics of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements. You can find out more by visiting her website at or by writing to:
Linda Carlson
Box 517
Vaughn, Mt. 59487

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