Let’s face it – nobody wants to have to use chemicals on their animals. Heck, I don’t even like having to take ibuprofen. Why would I want to use a medicine whose name I can’t even pronounce on my sheep, pigs, or chickens?
Unfortunately, natural options don’t always cut it when it comes to treating and preventing parasites in livestock. I’ve talked about how organic options aren’t always the best when it comes to your health – make sure you check out that article here.
The same theory applies to livestock. There are plenty of natural options you can use to treat and prevent worms in your animals, but the sad reality is that sometimes you may need to use a chemical dewormer or medication (like an antibiotic) to save an animal’s life.
When it really comes down to it, preventing parasites is a much better avenue than treating them.
This article will discuss the many ways that you can prevent parasites (aka, worms) in your animals – as well as some natural solutions that can be used as an occasional (hesitant) alternative to chemicals. These also work great when used in conjunction with chemical dewormers, like Ivermectin.
Remember – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but you may not always be able to address major health issues in your livestock with natural remedies alone.
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What are Worms?
Internal parasites are something found in every natural ecosystem, and usually, animals who have parasites will simply emit them in their feces, where they then dry out in the sun before they can contaminate another animal.
However, animals who are left on the same pasture without adequate rest will develop parasite loads. This is significantly more likely when the following conditions are present:
- Humid conditions
- Animals are young or have weakened immune systems
- Animals are lactating or pregnant
The type of parasite that might affect your animals will vary depending on the species that you are raising. Here’s some more information that is species-specific to help you in your research:
Tips for Preventing Worms
Try to avoid overgrazing or overstocking your paddocks, pens, and pastures – rotate your animals whenever you can and try to keep things clean. A clean pasture is technically one that hasn’t been grazed for a minimum of six months.
Most worm larvae can crawl up a plant only about one or two inches from the ground. Therefore, livestock who are grazing pasture that is too short will increase the likelihood and quantity of the parasite larvae they eat. When the weather is wet, the parasites can climb higher, too.
Following Best Feeding Practices
Avoid feeding your animals directly on the ground. Try to clean up any spilled grain, too, so that your animals aren’t tempted to graze on the soil – where they will be gobbling up worm eggs, too.
You should also try, whenever possible, to prevent animals like goats from sleeping or playing in their feeders, as this can spread parasites and other bacteria from the ground up into the areas where they are most likely to eat it.
Try to maintain a diverse grazing pattern. Small ruminants like goats and sheep can benefit from grazing after cattle, who are able to “clean” pasture for sheep by ingesting larvae that will be damaging to the smaller ruminants. Cattle do not share the same species of parasites as goats and sheep.
Allowing poultry like chickens to graze after your livestock can also help clean up pastures. They will tear apart pile of manure, looking for worm and fly larvae. They’ll either eat it or expose it to sunlight, which will dry it out and destroy the larvae and eggs. You can graze chickens in chicken tractors or allow them to free-range behind your ruminants.
An animals’ resistance to certain types of parasites is determined, by and large, by his genetics. You may be able to influence a herd or flock’s suceptiblityl to parasites by rethinking your bloodlines.
10 Best Natural Livestock Dewormers
Garlic has powerful antibacterial qualities and help remove parasites in the gastrointestinal tract. It also helps to boost the immune system, so it can improve the ability of your animals’ bodies to reject parasites as well as to prevent new infestation.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder that is made out of the crushed skeletons of fossilized aquatic organisms. It’s safe to give to your animals, and we’ve had some success mixing it in the feed of our animals.
3. Copasure Boluses
Copasure boluses contain copper oxide wire particles. These can help control barber pole worms in goats and sheep – but you need to be very careful in using them around sheep. In fact, we’ve never attempted this method of parasite control because sheep are very prone to copper toxicity and this can cause serious problems in your flock. It may or may not be worth the gamble, depending on how dire your situation is.
4. Tannin-Rich Plants
There are certain plants that contain compounds called tannins. These tannins can help reduce worms in the digestive tract of a ruminant. Consider planting them if you’re laying down fresh pasture.
A couple options are sainfon, dock, birdsfoot trefoil, willow, burdock, plantain,and chicory. Another option is sericea lespedeza, which is a legume that can be found in the eastern portions of the United States. This drought-tolerant perennial is a great choice for soils with low pH, low humidity, and even low fertility. It can have a somewhat bitter taste, but it can help inhibit a worm infestation.
5. Shaklee Basic H
Basic H is a germicide that can be added to drinking water. It should be added six times per year. It’s all natural and made out of water, corn, coconut, xanthan gum, and biodegradable preservatives.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Some herbalists have suggested that pumpkin seeds can be effective dewormers against intestinal parasites, like tapeworms. This is because pumpkin seeds contain the amino acid cucurbitin, which both paralyzes and eliminates worms from the gastrointestinal tract.
Ginger is a common herbal remedy and is often used to treat digestive upset in humans. There’s limited evidence to suggest that ginger can help clear parasites in livestock, but it’s a good option if you are willing to experiment with it. Add it to your animals’ feed about once a week.
This isn’t a remedy I’ve tried, but read about in this Mother Earth News article. Basically, the theory is that tobacco kills parasites while remaining harmless to livestock. You can add about an ounce to a scoop of feed. Again, I’m not sure how it works or whether it’s effective, but I encourage you to read more about it to determine whether it might be a good solution for your animals.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is everybody’s favorite natural remedy. It can be effective for all kinds of livestock, but in a ruminant, it’s especially important. It ferments fiber to produce quick energy and balance the pH in the digestive tract. Consider giving apple cider vinegar with water or with a drench gun.
10. Native Lick
Native Lick contains five prehistoric sea bed minerals and it can help treat parasites like coccidiosis sand cryptosporidium.
11. Grazier’s Essentials
Grazier’s Essentials are formulas that can be fed directly to your animals or offered free choice. They contain things like probiotics, prebiotics, kelp, fat, enzymes, vitamins, Dyna-Min, and trace elements like zinc, selenium, iron, and calcium.
12. Aqua-Nox Stock Saver
This is a natural treatment that is considered organically acceptable. You can use it to help treat parasite problems as well as to preserve digestive health. Add an ounce to 100 gallons of water or drench at a dose of 60 cc per 150 pounds of animal.
13. Herbal Dewormers
There are quite a few herbal remedies you can try if your livestock is suffering from some kind of parasite infestation. These tend to work much better as a preventative measure, but some herbs to consider include:
These tend to help limit the amount of pests that infiltrate your livestock – but again, they don’t always worked when used as the sole method of treatment.
The exact herbal remedies that will work best for your flock will vary depending on whether you are raising chickens, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, or another type of livestock – make sure you do your research to find out what your specific species will need.
What to Do if Prevention and Natural Deworming Don’t Work
Remember, if you’re incorporating the best preventative measures to get rid of parasites and you’re also using the treatments recommended above to no success, it may be time to try out a chemical dewormer.
I’d like to say that these should only be used as a last resort, but in many animals, like sheep, it’s difficult to detect signs of parasite infestation until the problem has progressed to a life-threatening state. Therefore, you may want to consider putting your animals on a regular chemical deworming regimen even if you are also using these natural treatments.
If a severe parasite infestation occurs, you will need to consider your species of animal when deciding the best ways to treat it. Keep in mind that you won’t only be treating to get rid of the parasite – when an infestation is extreme, you will also need to help your animal recover from the creature that was stealing so much of its nutrients, blood, or food.
For example, a sheep who have been exposed to parasites may develop secondary problems. Conditions like bottle jaw, a swelling of the neck around a sheep infected with barber pole worms, are signs of severe anemia. Therefore, you will need to treat your sheep’s infestation with Ivermectin or another chemical dewormer and also give your animal a dose of B-12, iron, and other deficient vitamins and minerals.
You can purchase these supplements online – Rooster Booster makes some good products for a variety of animals, including sheep, goats, and chickens – or you can make your own home remedy with foods like molasses, apple cider vinegar, and garlic. Just make sure you replenish what your animal has lost.
It’s always best to do a fecal egg count to determine parasite loads in york pasture. This will give you an idea of the parasite load on the pasteur so you know how many and what kind of pest you are dealing with. Whenever possible, avoid treating with chemical dewormers unless you’ve done this – there are quite a few problems with chemical dewormers including:
- Resistance to many types of parasites to many types of drugs
- Deworming too often that accelerates resistance
- Under-dosing as a result of miscalculating body weight
In other words, know what you’re dealing with and develop a targeted approach to getting rid of your parasite problem instead of just a “spray and pray” solution.
Once you’ve recovered from a parasite infestation, your first priority should be to implement the steps needed to ensure you can prevent one from occurring in the future. Practice good animal husbandry in the form of appropriate rotational grazing, attentive monitoring, and best feeding practices to make sure you don’t have to deal with a parasite problem ever again.
Have you ever had a severe parasite problem in your flock? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments!
Want to learn more about raising livestock? Be sure to check out these articles!
- 12 Reasons Why Sheep Are the Coolest Livestock You Can Raise
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lambing (But Didn’t Want to Ask!)
- 12 Common Hoof Problems in Sheep
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