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...