Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Natural ways to keep your pigs, goats and other stock parasite free

PictureIn my last post I discussed why we don't use chemical wormers. In case you missed it, you can read it here.

So naturally the question arises so what do you use to combat parasite loads in your livestock?

For us at Spring Hill Farms it is a three pronged approach.

1. We use several natural wormers.
2. We practice rotational grazing.
3. We breed for parasite resistance.

Let's talk about breeding for parasite resistance. In my opinion much of the livestock in America has been genetically developed for many traits but few of them have anything to do with sustainable farming.

For instance a major trait in pork production has been to reduce the fat content and a campaign was started to market pork as "the other white meat."

The show circuit for pigs focuses on fitting them to please the latest whims of the judges. The same for goats, dairy cows, beef cows etc.

The sustainable farmer has an entirely different set of goals. We look for several traits in our stock that are necessary for a profitable operation. One of them being all around low maintenance. Or as I like to say 'we breed tough animals.'

That doesn't mean we abuse them, it means we look for stock that has a lot of good old fashion instincts that animals should have.

Breeding for resistance to parasites means keeping a close eye on your stock and employing every method you know to use to keep them healthy without resorting to chemical wormers.

When you find animals that can't cut it you cull them. Or alternatively, you assist them as little as possible with chemical inputs with the goal of weaning them off.

Pigs are much easier than other types of livestock because of the amount of animals you can work with. Ten or so pigs in a litter and two litters per year can give you a lot animals to work with.

As one fellow says breed the best and eat the rest. The goal is to produce offspring that need less help and doing this each generation will eventually get you some tough parasite resistant animals.

It's took us about five years before we really saw good positive results with pigs. I think with goats unless you have a large herd it will take much longer.

My experience with dairy goats are they can be fragile animals. Which I think is in some part their nature, and in some part breeders who have never really bred for traits that the low input, sustainable, natural farmer finds important.

We went with Purebred Oberhasli because I felt they fit our farm model. Now can we breed the traits we want? Time will tell.

One of the positives we have found Hoeggers goat supply has an all natural wormer that is working well.

From Hoegger website: The original, all natural, herbal wormer is compounded especially for goats. This wormer contains no artificial chemicals and is non-toxic and non-sickening. Safe for kids & pregnant does. No milk dumping or withdrawal time for slaughter. 200 doses in every pound of wormer.

Dosage for mature goats is 1-1/2 tsp. weekly.

Ingredients: Worm Wood, Gentian, Fennel, Psyllium, & Quassia

Another area we focus heavily on is rotating pasture. We try to keep pigs on a pasture no longer than three weeks and two and a half is better. Once we move them off we run pastured poultry across the field and then let it rest for five to six weeks.

Sunshine and time is the best way to break parasite cycles on your farm. If you are constantly exposing your stock to parasites it will be tough to keep them from becoming over loaded and in need of treatment.

For goats that means keep them from grazing off the ground. Have plenty of high weeds and browse for them to eat up and away from parasites. Never feed hay on the ground or use feed bowls that sit on the ground.

A product we have used with great success is Perma Guard, which is a brand name for Diatomaceous Earth. While there are those who swear by Diatomaceous Earth  and those who say it's total bunk, we have found it a good piece of the puzzle in our fight against parasites.

The key is to use it constantly. We mix it in our feed for pigs and a couple table spoons a day in the goat's feed when they are on the milk stand.

Another product we use on pigs is garlic. Besides being a natural wormer, garlic is also a good broad base anti-viral. This something we will use on breeding stock rather than growing pigs.

There is a product on the market that is called garlic barrier which is for sheep and possibly goats but I wonder about off tasting milk in dairy animals.

Crystal Creek
also sells a wormer we have used for pigs with good results. Another I have not tried but have heard some good comments is Verm-X.

The bottom line is we have many choices other than conventional chemical wormers.

Folks have said they think that some of these natural products are too expensive. I say looking for the cheapest way to raise livestock is one reason agriculture is in it's current state.. You can't shortcut quality.

As with all forms of natural or organic farming, it takes more management than inputs to keep the farm healthy, happy, and profitable.

Till next time...

 
 

No Chemical Wormers Used Here

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Chemical Wormer
At Spring Hill Farms we try to do things as close to natural as we can. To us that means no chemical wormers.

I realize many farms do use chemical wormers. I also know small farms or organically oriented farms many times use chemical, commercial wormers.

We have used them in cases where stock was not responding to natural methods. By that I mean in the early years when we first started breeding Tamworth pigs we had some that did not do well in our type of system.

They got a parasite load that caused them to drop weight and if we would have let it go they would have been stunted or even sick enough to die from the worms. Although this only happened twice we pulled them off the pastures and chemically wormed them, got them well, and then sold them.

My experience tells me you can selectively breed for parasite resistance. But that's only one piece of the puzzle. Poor management will trump even the best genetics. You can take some of my Tamworth Hogs and put them in a small lot that eventually turns to dirt and manure and you could very likely expose them to enough of a parasite load to end up with problems.

A major drawback to killing these parasites with chemicals is that they tend to mutate very quickly in order to survive the onslaught, so new and more powerful chemicals have to be developed to kill them, and the cycle continues. If you are over using wormers it is even worse.

I recently spoke with someone about goats and they said that for round worms in goats the product SAFEGUARD is not effective in almost all of the United States because the round worms have become immune to it.

To me parasite resistance is one reason to avoid chemical wormers. I have seen research that indicates the wormers once they pass through the animal ends up in the soil. I don't want parasiticides in my soil.

Another product on the market is Ivermectin. While I certainly am not even close to an expert on any of these products natural or chemical, it just doesn't seem right to me that I can give my pigs a dose of Ivermectin and it not only kills the internal parasites, it also rids them of external parasites. I'm not sure how it does this, but it seems like the stuff actually poisons the critters through the skin. Not something I'm comfortable eating later on.

Which brings me to my next point. I'm not comfortable with the fact that my pork, beef, or chicken may have parasiticide residue in it. Now I know the research that has been done to indicate that it's is minimal and it's harmless. But I say err on the side of caution.

Scientific cleverness is what has caused many of the messes in modern agriculture. I look at it this way, if it is safe to consume or there is no residue even present by the time it gets to the table, great! All the people consuming this type of meat are at no risk.

But if it is harmful as we may find out down the road, I'm not effected nor are my customers because we don't use them.

Next time I'll talk about our approach to parasite control here at Spring Hill Farms.

 

 

 
 

Raw Goat's Milk Great for the Soil

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Raw Goats Milk
When I first began to consider getting goats I had three reasons.

  1. I believe raw milk to be a great health food for my family.

  2. I wanted to supplement the pigs and chickens diet with raw milk.

  3. I had read some very interesting research on raw milk and soil fertility.
I first read an article in Acres USA about how a farmer from Nebraska had started dumping milk on his fields. It didn't start out as a way to build soil health but he began to notice several results from dumping the raw milk.

The farmer, David Wetzel, watched as his cows would make a beeline for the grass that had been sprayed with raw milk.

He also noticed that the grass appeared greener and seemed to grow faster.

The soil was softer and more porous. He discovered this when he had a company come to do soil testing on his property. The temperature was below zero and the only place they could probe the ground was in the fields he had dumped raw milk.

Through a chain of events he had his local Ag extension agent put together some tests to see if they could determine exactly what the results were from dumping the milk on the fields.

After 45 days the test plots grew 1,100 more pounds of grass than the plots that were not treated with milk which was a 26 percent increase in yield.

The raw milk treated plots were 18 percent softer than the untreated as determined by compaction tests. That means the soil is more porous - it had a greater ability to absorb and hold water. The grass also appeared healthier and had fewer lesions and yellow discoloration. 

So What is happening?

It seems as though the milk is providing food for the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes that teem inside a healthy soil.

Raw milk is a veritable stew of protein and sugar complexes that microbes need for growth. Additionally, raw milk is one of the best sources of vitamin B found in nature and it brims with enzymes that can break down food for microbes and plants. Many farmers have heedlessly scorched microbe activity in their pastures with years of tillage, chemical use and overgrazing.  

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Oberhasli Dairy Goat

So when we were thinking of purchasing goats for the farm, an added benefit was the raw milk can be a great soil booster!

I have a sprayer tank that I can use on the back of the ATV. I bought a nozzle from Northern Hydraulics that sprays a 16 feet wide pattern which is what I need instead of trying to get a boom type sprayer through the small wooded pastures we have.

According to what I have read the optimum mixture would be 17 gallons of water to 3 gallons of milk for a total of 20 gallons per acre.

The raw milk can be sprayed on tilled soil or directly on the plants with seemingly the same effect.

I plan to start this in the Spring and hope to report the effects. In poking around the net I have read numerous testimonies that people think it is really helping their fields, gardens, and plants.

I'll keep you posted....


 
 

Meet the Goats

I thought it was high time I introduce you to the goats! Meet  Milkyway and Lucy.

Oberhasli Goats 

They are Purebred Oberhasli dairy goats. I decided some time ago after researching dairy goats that we would go with the Oberhasli breed.

There are several reasons I decided on Oberhasli but at the top of the list is they are listed on the ALBC website as "recovering".

Although as a whole, the breed is recovering in the US, these numbers include the American Oberhasli which is a Purebred Oberhasli buck bred to an Alpine doe. (American Oberhasli look exactly the same so the paperwork is the only way to tell.)

Then the offspring is bred to a Purebred Oberhasli. This continues for I believe three generations and then that generation can be registered as an American Oberhasli.

Purebred Oberhasli on the other hand, can be traced back to Switzerland with no Alpine influence.

Purebreds are actually in decline in the US since American Oberhasli are readily available to breeders and the Purebreds are harder to find.

We are currently milking two does and have purchased a buck so next Spring should find us with more Purebred Oberhasli goats!

Another reason I went with Oberhasli is they have a good reputation for milk that is very close to cows milk in taste. My family can't tell a difference in the goat milk and whole cows milk from the store.

Two milking does provide way more milk than we can drink so the pigs and chickens are enjoying the milk as well. The whole farm is enjoying all the health benefits of raw milk!

 
 
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