AN ORGANIC APPROACH TO GOAT HEALTH
For many years I provided mineral supplements for my goats but have never been happy with them. For one thing the minerals used in such supplements are nearly always in a form which is not readily available for digestion. Thus one has to feed larger quantities of the supplement than is wise for the animal to get enough of the minerals in which it is deficient. This leads to an imbalance and can also by overdosing of some elements promote a blocking reaction on the availability of some of the others. Many of us have had to take iron tablets at some point in our lives. These generally come in the form of iron sulphate which is not readily assimilated by our systems and the dosage needed to provide enough iron for our system has rather an unfortunate side effect on our digestive system, causing diarrhea which, of course, means that much of the mineral is lost along with fluids and other much needed nutrients which do not have time to be absorbed.
If one takes iron in a ‘chelated’ form- this is a ‘biological’ form rather than a chemical one- which is easily digested and assimilated into the system, then you ‘get what you take’ with none of the side effects. There is a plant called ascophyllum nodosum, a common seaweed familiar to us as egg or knotted wrack. It contains a wide range of elements and some 20 amino acids together with 12 vitamins which are in the correct proportion to each other. It is easily digested making all nutrients readily available to the animal. It contains all the minerals and trace elements an animal needs for a normal healthy life and in times of stress, rations can be increased with complete safety because it is a natural, balanced food. The seaweed is harvested, minced and dried in its natural form with nothing added and nothing taken away except water. It is known as Seaquim. I first started using Seaquim as a supplement in September 1995, feeding about two dessert spoonfuls per day to each animal with an extra spoonful to the heavy milkers and that winter I was astonished at the difference it made: The general health of the herd was much better. Foot problems were virtually nil. I had to cut concentrate rations by over one-third because, due to better digestion and assimilation of food, the goats were getting overweight on the level of feeding given over previous winters I had none of the usual ‘ I don’t feel well but I didn’t know why and I really don’t feel like eating /going out today’ syndrome. Coat condition was excellent, without the usual winter roughness which tends to make them look a bit shabby. There was a noticeable absence of going off their normal rations because they needed something different to balance out their systems. Goats which would normally have dried up at the onset of winter continued to milk reasonably well making it possible to raise two calves that winter when I would normally have had to wait until the main batch of kiddings took place in the spring. This list could go on a bit but I think this is enough to make my point. And yes, I do know that this is due to the use of Seaquim because I had one dairy milker and two kids who at first did not like the taste and flatly refused to eat it, so I decided to keep them as a Control group.
The milker is my best one and her production over the winter was well below that of the mediocre milkers who were eating the supplement daily. She also had her ‘off days’ got fussy about what she would eat, had a few minor stomach upsets and needed her feet trimming far more often than the others. The control kid had slower weight gain, suffered digestive problems and was definitely not in such good condition as the others. The following year I tried another experiment, feeding one half of the herd with Seaquim and the other half just having free access to a proprietary sheep mineral supplement. With the onset of wet weather in the autumn the group on the mineral mix all developed bad cases of foot rot while those on Seaquim had good healthy feet. All the goats were grazing in the same paddock and followed the same routine. After six weeks during which the infected feet were treated and some re-infection occurred, the control group was then put out onto ad lib access to Seaquim for a week and then returned to the standard ration of 2oz per day.
Since then there has been no recurrence of infection. Seaquim costs more than the usual mineral supplements but I have calculated that with the overall improvement in general health making for less veterinary/medical treatment, it more than pays for itself. If you can persuade your food merchant to get it for you then it is well worth giving it a trial run. -- Judy McKay Seaquim is produced by Glenside Organics Ltd, Block 2, Unit 4, Bandeath, Throsk, Stirlingshire FK7 7XY Tel; 01786 816655 or Fax 01786 816100 Obtainable from Ascott Goat & Smallholding Supplies, Anvil House, Dudleston Heath, ELLESMERE SY12 9LJ Tel: 0870 443 0653 Fax: 0870 443 0653 Browse and shop Online www.thesmallholdersshop.com This article was reproduced, with permission, from the ‘Smallholder’ magazine (February ’97) Free back copies of ‘Smallholder can be obtained by ringing 01326 21333. I have been using Seaquim for the past five years and have found it an excellent supplement. I contacted Glenside Organics before using it to determine the dosage for pygmy goats and was advised to feed 1 teaspoonful daily per animal. Now I feed ad lib, placing roughly the same total amount in a feed bowl daily. The goats seem to prefer it this way. My corn merchant provides it in a 20kg. bag at £20.00 per bag. (NOTES Editor - Pat Mercer)