Copper is essential in formation of red blood cells, hair pigmentation, connective tissue and enzymes. It is also important in normal immune system function and nerve conduction. Deficiency symptoms include anemia, bleached looking and rough hair coat, diarrhea and weight loss. Young goats may experience progressive incoordination and paralysis, especially in the rear legs. High dietary molybdenum can depress absorption of copper and cause a deficiency. There should be at least four times as much copper as molybdenum in the diet. Sheep-- both hair and wool types -- are sensitive to copper toxicity, whereas goats require copper levels similar to beef cattle. Angora goats may be more sensitive to copper toxicity than meat and dairy goats. There are differences in copper requirements for several sheep breeds. This could also be true for meat goats, but no data are available. Although most of the United States has adequate copper levels (Figure 7), many areas have high levels of molybdenum (Figure 6) due to soil geology and, therefore, require copper supplementation. The liver stores copper, which can protect against toxicity in the short term. However, when liver capacity is exceeded, animals can die rapidly from a hemolytic crisis caused by stressors such as being chased.
Reference: Hart, S. 2008. Meat Goat Nutrition. Pages 58-83 in Proc. 23rd Ann. Goat Field Day, Langston University, Langston, OK.