Monitoring Minerals

Source: Capripedia

The body is a complex system that is constantly working to guarantee and balance the supply and removal of products to and from the cells and tissues. This applies to nutrients, but also to minerals and trace elements. The blood is often a good reflection of the supply (the ‘working stock’) of the animal at that moment. Milk, urine, and saliva can also provide insight into the direct availability of certain elements. To assess the supply in the body outside the blood (low, sufficient, or even too much), often an analysis of the liver or organs has to be carried out.

Hair samples can be used to get a general idea of how the supply has developed in the past period.


The purpose of the examination must be clear. On the one hand, there may be valid reasons to doubt the supply of certain minerals or trace elements based on symptoms in (a part of) the goats in the barn. On the other hand, routine examination of the supply can be used to support feed management.

In order to arrive at a good diagnosis, the right animals will have to be sampled. Depending on the question, this could be, for example, the animals with abnormal symptoms, only the bucks, the lactating goats, or the dry goats. The result of one animal can be based on coincidences. In general, samples from at least 5 animals are needed in order to be able to draw a conclusion.

In general, laboratories have a lot of experience in testing cows and pigs, but less so with goats. It is not always known what the reference values (normal values) are for goats, given the analysis equipment they use. If reference values are not known, there is no point in sending in material. Since developments in the field of goat research do not stand still, it is always wise to contact the laboratory in case of special wishes or to search for a laboratory that can provide the desired research.

Laboratories do not always use the same method or equipment to perform an analysis. Reference values may therefore vary between different laboratories. This sometimes makes comparison difficult.

Depending on whether you want to know the circulating supply or the stock in the body, the right sample has to be chosen for analysis. In order to get a picture of the circulating supply, blood tests are usually required. Sometimes it is better or necessary to do a milk or urine analysis. The liver functions as a storehouse for most trace elements. Because the body tries to maintain a fixed level in the circulation, it is possible that the supply in the liver (or organ tissue) is high or even dangerously high.

There are different types of blood tubes, each with a different addition, which treat the blood in such a way that the correct analysis is possible. Serum, heparin and EDTA tubes are most commonly used. Before sampling, check which tubes should be used.


At present, various tests are possible and reliable in goats. Not every test can be performed in every laboratory. Considering the rapid developments in the field of laboratories, more research will undoubtedly become possible in the time to come.

The body’s supply of Calcium (Ca), Phosphate (P), Sodium (Na) and Potassium (K) can be easily demonstrated in blood. Sodium and potassium can also be determined from saliva, but this is not done very often.

The supply of Cobalt (Co) in blood is determined indirectly; because Cobalt is a component of vitamin B12, this vitamin is determined instead of Cobalt itself. An excess is stored in the liver. Selenium (Se) in the blood is also usually determined indirectly by determining the enzyme GSH-pX. Selenium is built into this enzyme. It can also be determined in (tank) milk. Selenium is also stored in the liver.

Magnesium (Mg) can be determined in blood. Magnesium supply is largely regulated by increased or decreased excretion through the kidneys. Before the blood level drops or rises, a change in the excretion of magnesium will be detected in the urine. Urine analysis is therefore preferable for determining Magnesium.

The circulating levels of Copper (Cu), Lead (Pb), Zinc (Zn) and Iron (Fe) can be determined in the blood. For Copper and Zinc this is also possible in (tank) milk. In case of excess, these trace elements are stored in the liver.

Iodine (I) can be tested in blood and milk. An excess is stored in the thyroid gland.

Manganese cannot be tested in blood, but if necessary, it can be tested in tank milk.

In addition to the storage function of the liver for various trace elements, the liver (and sometimes other organs) also has a function as a storage place for heavy metals. Arsenic (As), Cadmium (Cd), Molybdenum (Mo), Vanadium (V), Chromium (Cr) and Nickel (Ni) can be determined in the liver or other organs. Especially in research on these heavy metals, consultation with the laboratory for the right sampling is important. For some time now, tank milk tests for various minerals/trace elements have been available from various laboratories.

Hair Samples

Hair sample analyses can provide a lot of information about the past months. One can look back into the past as far as the hair is old. As the evaluation through hair samples is done over a long period of time, this method is only recommended if a similar feed was given during this long period of time. We can then evaluate this feeding system with it.

Through hair sample analyses, there is international experience with all the preceding elements, supplemented by Si, Al, Hg and S.

The hair sample and repeated blood or milk sample analyses are suitable to evaluate your farm as a system. The repeated blood or milk samples give a picture of the evolution but can be quite expensive due to their necessary repetition. The hair samples can give a picture over the whole period of the hair growth concerned. Analysing it just before the moult gives a picture of the longest period. Often this gives a good picture of the company as a system at a one-time cost, which is lower than the cost of repeated blood or milk samples.


Below are some documents pertainig to the hair sample analyses. For more information you can contact us at the email address:


The method to collect and submit hair samples is explained in our manual. Click on the buttons below to download the manual.

More information

The previous explanation on monitoring minerals can also be found in the following pdf document. Apart from this you also find here an example of the result of a hair sample analysis.

Price setting

Service Price VAT excl. (EUR) Price 21% VAT incl. (EUR)
Labo analysis (per bag) 200 242
Data analysis (per bag) 50 60,5
Logistics/material 50 60,5


To order a hair sample analysis you can fill in the following order form. The order form should then be sent together with the hair samples to the address Degstraat 4, 2230 Herselt België. More information on how the hair sample should be procured can be found in the manual.