How iron deficiency is a symptom not just associated with parasites


But is also an ongoing issue that many goat herders misdiagnose as a problem due to parasites. But in this post I will share some revelations as to an overlooked cause for pale eyelids.

NOTE: This blog post is a mirror of an entry I originally published on my photography blog. As a convenience to our subscribers, I have moved those goat related posts here to Goat Your Land.

Recently I had an outbreak of rather pale eyelids in our herd. I had already dewormed with the same remedy I have been using for 4 years with great results. So what was different this year? Could there be a hidden cause for iron deficiency in my herd?

I’ve noticed on blogs, chat rooms and FB groups the prevalence of anemia and worm infestations in goat herds. Both conditions attributed to the symptom of less than deep pink eyelids in caprines. My restraint in involving a vet, running up expensive test bills, or resorting to purchasing pre-prepared remedies, yielded a lesson in symbiotic husbandry rooted in natural remedies. This fosters an awareness for and utilization of the natural habitat and diet of one’s herd. There is a mass exodus out of silage fed herds and return to the ancient practice of pastoralism, back onto forage. It’s healthier for the animals and healthier for the Goat Walker.

It was in Dr. Paul Dettloff’s book, Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals, that I was inspired to restore my pasture from inferior fescue to native prairie grasses and plants. Dettloff said,

“Feed your pasture and

your pasture will feed your animals.”


My friend Chris Hoeme, of Diamond H Grass and Cattle Ranch, experienced this transformation in his herd. You can read the story about it here. 

I took notice that the bucks had pinker lids than the does. They spent more time in the woods foraging. The does were spending more time on pasture. Another thing that came to mind was the lack of rain here in Missouri. It’s 2018, and this year we went from winter, then 2 weeks of spring and slammed into blazing summer heat by end of May. The pastures and trees are not as lush, regardless, the bucks seem to prefer foraging in the woods to eating pasture. 

Another problem I noted was the local fox that usually shows up around spring and early summer.  It has not only taken a few of my chickens already, but has made my does rather skittish, keeping them out of the woods altogether for most of the day. Our 4 acre pasture is in mid-restorative stage, and does not make for good eating just yet. We were forced to burn it, in order to reduce the fescue growth, before reseeding. We may have to burn it again. I want a native grasses pasture. I understand that ridding ourselves of the fescue will take time. But if the girls spend most of their time on fescue pasture, their nutritional intake will be very poor.

I did some research online, finding my way to a rather interesting blog. An Australian equine vet’s site. McDowell’s Herbal Treatments. Practitioners of Australian traditional medicine. As a natural goatherd, I am an advocate and practitioner of holistic remedies in herd management. This site I discovered had practical advise for me as a goatherd. Understanding the posts were for treatment of horses, I gleaned much from their insight, and even found a remedy that provided the most relief for a goat I have suffering from laminitis, that just hours before finding this I had prepared to put down . But that success story is for a later post. 

Having had the understanding that iron can either be plant or meat based, I am fully aware when providing ruminants with iron, it should be plant based – non heme iron. The most prominent lesson my research provided was that copper deficiency, and high concentrations of calcium and phylates (phytate) can both inhibit iron absorption. That got me thinking?

Was I complicating the deworming process, by compounding it with an iron deficiency problem? 

  • Commercial goat feeds are loaded with wheat pellets – wheat and most grains are high in phylates.
  • They also have alfalfa pellets – alfalfa is high in calcium.
  • Some textured feeds have a lot of corn. Corn is high in phylates.
  • Most mineral mixes have calcium in the mix. In some brands, the form of calcium is not the best.
  • Many goatherds hay their animals with alfalfa hay – alfalfa is high in calcium.


Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and other seeds. It contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the “arms” of the phytic acid molecule readily bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable as well. In this form, the compound is referred to as phytate.

Consider the condition of a herd of goats eating forage that is not nutritionally dense. Being feed grain with wheat, alfalfa pellets and corn. Being hayed with alfalfa hay, given minerals high in calcium. Definitely a tonic for iron deficiency, acidosis and other implications. That was my herd. 

Corn and wheat are non-essential in a goat’s diet. Ruminants always do better with forage and fresh fodder if you have access to it, and yes winter does call for an alteration in diet.  

If you suspect the calcium and phylate intake is high, then possibly those pale eyelids maybe from low iron. So, as the year progresses, and their feeding habits and diet changes, so will the fluxation in iron and iron absorption. Understanding that too much iron and careless administration of iron supplementation in goats can also bring ON a whole other set of problems.




“The most important fact to remember is without copper, iron cannot be assimilated and many so-called iron deficiencies are merely due to a copper shortfall. Copper supplementation would also raise iron levels quickly and does not have the disadvantage of totally suppressing vitamin E, as supplementary iron does.”    By Pat Coleby, from her book Natural Goat Care, pg. 167

Sulfur repels ticks on goats


Goats would do better with a grain mix of oats, barley and flax seeds. Oats are high in iron and in silica which is excellent for strong hooves. Barley and the flax seeds already have a phenomenal reputation for their contributions to both animal and human diets. But, also high in iron is kale, spinach, fresh fodder, beet greens, raisins, and apricots, among the most common plant foods. Not to mention the need to assure you are using a quality copper supplement. 

So I ventured out to experiment with flax, barley and oats. Having an increased sense of direction, after finding in one of my favorite resources the same information, in the book by Australian born author, Pat Coleby, titled: Natural Goat Care. Some days I soaked it in water with apple cider vinegar and other days I fed it dry. Both ways they ate it. I have one buckling and a doeling that fusses with it, whether dry or soaked. So I try to mix in their feed ration with some of their usual textured feed. Neither is suffering from pale eyelids or weight loss.

I also utilized a drench with a plant-based (non-heme) iron supplement especially after deworming. That produced excellent results. This process is not a one size fits all method. Herds vary, pastures vary, management styles vary, diet varies, and methods of treating illnesses vary. Goats overloaded with antibiotics, pharmaceutical dewormers, heavy grain diets, kept on small paddocks with little to no forage, will not exhibit the results of those that have a more optimal environment for ruminants. 

In the end I realized that as goatherds, our battle with pale eyelids, may not solely be associated with a need to deworm, but may be a complication due to their diet, that is inhibiting iron absorption. Check out the chart below.

Relationship Between Minerals

Based on research by several investigators, these mineral relationships appear to be well established.

How to Interpret the Mineral Wheel Chart:

If a mineral has an arrow pointing to another mineral, it means a deficiency of that mineral or interference with its metabolism may be caused by excesses of the mineral from whence the arrow originates. Mineral Wheel Chart by: Advanced Biological Concepts


About Daisy

Daisy is an accomplished photographer, website and business branding designer. When not designing, her days are spent herding the family dairy goats through woodlands and prairies of the Midwest, where she lives. Oh, also making and drinking kefir! An avid goaty, her latest pursuit is engaged in the research and restoration of pastoral goat husbandry, via blogging, and online coaching, through the website and the growing international Goat Your Land Facebook group. Her studies of ancient cultures and natural husbandry inspired the rediscovery and restoration of classical pastoral husbandry as their primary mode of herd management.

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