Copper deficiency in goats is a common problem in many areas of the US, and can cause many serious conditions including severe anemia, stillborn kids, mastitis, osteoporosis, and many other ailments. It’s essential for proper development of the goat central nervous system, correct bone growth, and hair pigmentation.
Since copper is so critical to goat health and there are so many deficient areas in the US (see Copper Bolusing Goats for more information on this), copper bolusing was introduced in 1994 and has become a very popular method of preventing copper deficiencies.
Copper boluses are gelatin capsules containing thousands of tiny copper oxide needles. Copper oxide needles are fine copper wire, and are non-toxic when given orally. The capsules dissolve in the goat’s rumen and the needles lodge in the abomasum where they slowly dissolve and provide copper. Copper bolusing is generally done at 5 to 6 month intervals to provide continuous protection against copper deficiency as studies have shown that copper levels start decreasing rapidly after about 4 months.
We try to make sure the goats get a copper bolus at least twice a year, particularly prior to breeding season (which is coming right up) and kidding season. But, we’ve always had problems getting the bolus into the goats without them chewing the copper (which then probably tends to pass right through them).
So this fall, we finally put together this simple bolusing tool which seems to be getting the capsules back far enough into their throat – and they then swallow it rather than chewing it! The homemade tool just took a few simple parts to make:
1 Snap On Lamb/Kid Nipple – cut the nipple off as shown in the picture
1 5/16″ ID x 10″ Long PVC piece
1 3/16″ OD x 12″ Long Threaded Rod
Simply insert the PVC into the nipple (making sure that the opening in the nipple end is large enough to hold the bolus), duct tape the PVC to the nipple, and then insert the rod into the PVC pipe and duct tape the bottom of the rod (the part that sticks out the other end from the nipple) so that it’s long enough to push out the copper bolus, but not long enough to push into the goats throat.
The bottom photo above shows the completed tool with a 2 gram copper bolus capsule being pushed out the top as an example. Simple little tool that finally seems to be getting the copper into our goats!