My long-term goal is to raise medication and vaccination-free Icelandic sheep and goats. In order to do so, I must do everything to ensure they have access to all nutrition, vitamins, plants, and herbs to keep their immune system strong. You can view my blog: The Happiness Diet to see what other steps we have taken to ensure they are healthy. Keep in mind, most of this is experimental and there are not a lot of research on well this works. Much of my information and remedies are "old school" meaning they were practiced at one time before commerical and industrial food farming took over thus creating a need for chemicals. I am posting this in hopes this will help others and maybe I will also get more feedback that might help us.
My Herbal Deworming Project for the Sheep and Goats:
Theory: Did you know that in the food industry, we are eating weak animals? At one time before becoming domesticated, chickens, turkeys, rabbit, sheep, bison and goats were allowed to forage over hundreds of miles of untouched land. Land that had a wide variety of plants to choose from. This resulted in healthier and stronger animals. Natural selection was allowed as weak animals perished. Animals with high parasite loads also died and animals that were naturally worm and disease resistant and had the ability to find plants to de-worm themselves: those were the ones that thrived. Envision your great great great and even greater grandfather hunting down and providing these kinds of beautiful healthy animals to the table. Healthy animals have stronger immune systems and a low parasite load. It is important for our future generations, that we keep these animals in our eco-system.
Our approach: Our animals are given adequate amounts of minerals, including choices in the minerals. They will also be rotated through four main pastures on 8 acres every 7-21 days. A mixture of dried herbs will be given to them weekly that naturally kill parasites. We will also be renovating our pasture to bring them over 200 species of plants to forage on.
Why: My own personal reason is because it seems that in the past when I use chemical dewormers or medications, it often made the animals sicker and presented other problems. I do know farmers that use a chemical regime successfully but that is not the case for us. I am also concerned about the fact that parasites are now becoming resistant to many of the chemical anthelmintics on the market and this was part of my problem before. I do not like repeatedly worming an animal several times in a row that we will be eating. I have talked to farmers who must now worm with two or three or more chemicals at a time to get any results. So, I am hopeful this system will work for us.
Method #1: Dried herbs for the goats and sheep, each of the following aid in natural parasite elimination:
- Comfrey (removes liver flukes)
- Lemon Balm
- Nettle Leaf
- Parsely (high in copper for barberpole worms)
- Birch Leaf
- Wormwood (not for pregnant animals)
I found that I can simply mix the above herbs and they will still eat all of them. I buy the herbs by the pound from Rose Mountain Herbs. From there, I mix equal parts into a one gallon. Generally I give each goat and sheep about 1/4 cup in their mineral feeders of which they promptly lick it all up. During lambing or kidding season, I offer it almost daily.
Here are some herbs and spices they do not like to eat but are still beneficial in removing parasites. I mix equal parts of all them. I give each animal about 1 tablespoon that I add to a weekly grain treat of sunflowers and oats. I also give this mixture to our pigs, chickens and ducks. For the chickens and ducks, I give about 1 tbsp per 25 birds as maintenance. For heavy acute treatment, I would recommend one half cup per 25 birds for a week with weekly treatment for six weeks minimum.
- Turmeric (for cocci in lambs and kids)
- Cloves (one of the few spices that expels eggs)
- Cayenne (for blackhead disease)
- Black walnut hull
- Mustard seed
- Fennel seed
- Pumpkin seed
COST for one year: Dried herbs and spices: $148
Challenge: determining how much they should get a week. Because it is worming season, I have been giving each sheep and goat one tablespoon a day. But starting April, I will give them each three tablespoons a week of the mixed and ground herbs about. Of course, I will give more or less as needed.
Method #2: Maintain current pastures and woods to harbor beneficial plants. In addition, plant herbs to grow wild in the pasture. Both sheep and goats need more than just grass. They need forbes (perennial weeds or wildflowers), clover, brush and even trees to eat. We intentionally picked the Icelandic sheep for our property which is 35% woods and the rest pasture because we liked their variation of diet. This summer, we will be planting the following herbs and plants along with regular pasture seed (I put an asterisk next to the plants that are anti-parasitic):
- Fodder Radish
- Herbal Nettle*
- Lemon Balm
- Mix of Clover
- Crown Vetch
- Hairy Vetch
- Mustard greens
- Pine trees
- Dogwood trees
- Redbud trees
- Willow brushes
COST for one year:
Seeds (many by the pound): $254.00
150 Trees: $124.00
100 Comfrey Roots: $65.00
Note: many of the seeds are perennials. Next year, our only cost will be to reseed with clover and pasture grass as needed. Also, I intentionally placed the seeds in area where they can be controlled if needed rather than all throughout the pasture. It is not a bad idea to have a "test" pasture when first starting out.
Challenge: The first challenge is going to be getting the seeds to grow in our acidic soil. There are a few areas I have been spreading dolomite lime in preparation, but because the soil is so sour I will have to continue to spread lime and adding organic matter. The second challenge will be to keep the sheep and goats from overeating the herbs so that they have a chance to establish themselves. Rotating them will be key. I will be bringing in soil as well as using azomite to help. I will also be growing many of the herbs in a private garden to monitor.
Method #3: Provide quality minerals. Currently, they are free-ranging over about 7-8 acres (rotated every 7 to 21 days). We also provide them free-choice of the following: kelp, azomite, white dolomite, and 50/50 mix of both Fertrell's goat and sheep mineral mixed with diamond v yeast and one tablespoon extra selenium and vitamin. I also provide Redmond's pink salt free-choice. In addition, I put out a brick-size horse lick that contains iodine, copper, cobalt, selenium, vitamin e, and zinc. The Pacific NW is very deficient in these nutrients. Just simply putting animals onto grass does not ensure or promise healthy animals. I also believe just simply putting out a block doesn't cover all the bases. A variety is important. If your soil is deficient in certain nutrients, you will start to have problems. By providing them with an array choice of minerals, you are giving them a chance to get what they need. This system has worked out very well for us and we have not had any sick animals as a result. Even through the wet winter months when colds and upper lung disease can be rampant.
COST for one year: $305
Challenge: Keeping the costs down. This is probably one of the more expensive methods. However, when you think in terms of "feed" in one year for the animals and the fact that they eat mostly brush, grass and trees - this is relatively cheap. Our other main cost we have yearly for the goats and sheep is to bring in hay for the winter. This last winter, I was surprise to see how very little of it they ate. We stored 25 bales of hay and barely made a dent in it. They preferred the grass, brush and trees. I think their nutritional intake through the minerals and herbs helped too. Next winter, we will likely only store 10-15 bales of hay.
Tests: At this time, I do not have a baseline test. And when our vet visited our animals a few months ago and I told him him about our worming program and that I would like a baseline test, he told me not to waste our money on testing and to keep doing all of the above and animals would be just fine. He is around 80 years old and seemed confident my program would work and when I asked if he thought I should add in chemical wormers, he gave me an affirmative, "no." I was both relieved and happy to hear that as I had been worried he might scoff or laugh at our program as some chemical-happy vets might be prone to do so. Since we are not testing, all I can really do is monitor our animals even more closely, check skin and hair condition, monitor weight (low weight can indicate parasite load) and learn to be even more in tune to our animals. When I have more time, I am going to learn how to do my own fecal counts. And when I master that, maybe I will learn animal whispering. ;)
For the herbs and spices: Mountain Rose Herbs
Comfrey Roots: Coe's Comfrey
Sainfoin Seeds: Bighorn Sainfoin Seed Co.
Herb seeds to plants: Bountiful Gardens
Herb seeds in bulk: Eden Brothers