Remember, these are options to use in addition to chemical dewormers, and you should always consult your vet before using them. You’ll probably have to resort to using chemical dewormers at least part of the time. They’re effective, but it’s important to use them correctly. We’ll talk more about that next week.
1. Herbal Dewormers
One option for chemical-free deworming is to use herbal dewormers. There are ready-made herbal dewormers on the market formulated for most kinds of farm animals or you can mix one of your own. To find products and recipes, visit your favorite search engine and type in goats, sheep, horses or whatever along with herbal dewormer. Many people swear by herbal dewormers, but science doesn’t always agree, so ask your veterinarian’s advice before you try one. With herbal products, it’s especially important to carefully monitor your animals for signs of parasite infestation using fecal worm egg tests and the FAMANCHA protocol we showed you last week.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Some folks feed their animals diatomaceous earth, a fine powder made from crushed rock containing the skeletons of fossilized aquatic organisms. It’s safe to feed to animals, but the few studies that have been conducted to prove or disprove its efficiency as a dewormer tend to contradict one another. If you use it it’s better to consider it as a deworming supplement rather than a standalone dewormer.
One way to help prevent worms in the first place is to avoid feeding your animals on the ground because they’ll snurf up worm eggs along with their feed. And try to keep animals like us goats from playing or sleeping in our feeders. (Good luck!)
4. Managed Grazing
Don’t overgraze or overstock your pens, paddocks and pastures, and rotate your animals to clean pastures whenever you can. According to University of Maryland Extension Sheep and Goat Specialist Susan Schoenian, clean pastures include pastures that haven’t been grazed by goats to sheep for at least six months, pastures that have recently been grazed by horses or cattle, and pastures from which a hay crop or another field crop was recently harvested.
5. Copasure Boluses
According to the Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control the copper oxide wire particles in copasure boluses help control barber pole worms in sheep and goats. Sheep, however, are prone to copper toxicity as are goats kept on copper-rich soil, so before you use them be sure to discuss the protocol with your vet.
6. Pasture Plants
Some plants containing a compound called tannin reduce worms in the ruminant digestive tract, so if you’re planting new pastures or hay ground it’s worth checking them out. One of them is sericea lespedeza, a legume that thrives in the eastern and southeastern U.S. It’s a long-lived, drought-tolerant perennial grows well in soil with poor fertility and low pH. Mom and Dad bought lespedeza hay for us a few years ago and they’d buy more if they could find it. It’s sort of bitter, so the horses and sheep weren’t impressed, but yum—we goats loved it! Other tannin-rich plants that inhibit worm infestation include sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil, dock and chicory. Ask your extension agent for more information.
The bottom line, however, is that you’ll probably have to resort to using chemical dewormers at least part of the time. They’re effective, but it’s important to use them correctly. We’ll talk more about that next week.