The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

The science behind non-chemical dewormers of goats and sheep

Goat eating garlicThe afternoon session of the Master Shepherd course we attended was led by Dahlia O'Brien and covered sheep and goat parasite management from a scientific perspective. Predictably, there was a lot of talk of chemical dewormers, but the most valuable section to me was her input on less mainstream techniques for keeping parasite loads low in your caprine and ovine herds.

I didn't take many notes on the management section since this is all data the biological farmer likely has under her belt (whether or not she's able to implement it on her own farm). Don't overstock. Do keep your animals healthy by feeding them appropriately. Don't let your animals eat or drink poop. Don't graze pasture plants closer than two inches to the ground. Try to rotate pastures in such a way that you keep parasite loads low (moving animals after four or five days on pasture and not returning them to the same spot for sixty days).

More interesting to me was Dr. O'Brien's take on which herbal and non-mainstream dewormers work. Basically, she said there's no scientific data that garlic, papaya, pumpkin seeds, ginger, wormwood, fennel, purchased herbal mixtures, or diatomaceous earth work at controlling goat and sheep intestinal parasites. She admitted that the herbs may help boost animal immune systems so they can better fight off the invaders, but she doesn't recommend counting on herbs as a first or even second line of defense. (Diatomaceous earth didn't even make the cut for the overall-health-improvement category --- it's only been shown to work as an insecticide.)

On the other hand, O'Brien wasn't all chemicals all the way. Instead, she recommended copper oxide wire particles (COWP or copper boluses), which she says are much safer than copper sulfate and which studies have suggested have a significant impact on lowering loads of barberpole worms. She recommends treating goat kids at weaning age (which is a dangerous time for worm infestations) with 0.5 grams and treating older animals up to four times per grazing season with 1 to 2 grams. Never treat more often than once every six weeks, and assess your area's soil copper levels before treating sheep.

Goats eating lespedezaAnother supplement that has been scientifically tested and proven to reduce parasite levels in goats and sheep is the condensed tannins found in lespedeza clover (Sericea lespedeza). Forage chicory has also been reported to contain similar condensed tannins that have reduced parasite problems in one trial with lambs. We'll definitely be looking for seeds to incorporate these plants into our pastures and surrounding areas in the near future.

Want more info on non-chemical goat and sheep parasite control? won Dr. O'Brien's seal of approval for containing tried and true information. The site is also, non-coincidentally, the source of the second photo in this post.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Hi Anna and Mark,

Your article about dewormers refers to a number of 'scientific' studies.

Perhaps I 'should' 'respect' scientific 'research'. That said, it seems to me that to quote Henry Ford: "The thing of supreme importance is experience."

I have been reading and re-reading Newman Turner and Dr. Wrench's 'Wheel of Health'.

The message I keep learning is that if I eat healthy alive food. I will have a vibrant and healthy life. The parasites, etc. will take care of themselves. And once my body is done with them, they will leave by themselves.

Since I have quite a few MDs in my family this leads to some heated lectures, even diatribes :)

I especially liked the recent comments in response to your article about herbs.

Together with the articles I mentioned above, I used garlic [ which i do not like ] to cure a very bad cold without the usual anit-biotic method.

Is is 'really' cured? Good question.

Only time will tell :).

But do read 'Wheel of Health' and Newman Turners stuff !!!

Lots of fun :).

Comment by John Tue May 10 16:59:39 2016

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