Both internal and external parasites can be the bane of a livestock owner’s existence. They make your animals’ lives miserable, increase the risk of disease, reduce performance, and just look nasty.
Unfortunately, drugs are proving to be increasingly ineffective as parasites adapt to modern chemicals. Isn’t there some natural remedy out there that will consistently work to eliminate parasites?
There is! This natural marvel is called diatomaceous earth. It is simply the fossilized remains of diatoms, algae that encase themselves in protective silica shells. Diatomaceous earth (DE) works on both external and internal parasites, and is not a poison. Instead, it is an abrasive substance that lacerates the vulnerable parts of the parasites and kills by dehydrating. Not something that is easy to adapt to!
A Few Words of Warning
Yes, diatomaceous earth is a very safe pesticide…if it is food-grade. Please be aware that pool-grade DE is chemically treated and therefore poisonous to both animals and humans. Only food-grade DE is safe to use for parasite control.
The other caution is to avoid inhaling diatomaceous earth. The fine particles that kill parasites can also damage your lungs.
With this in mind, how do we use diatomaceous earth?
A dusting of diatomaceous earth over the coats of your livestock and pets can kill any ticks and other nasty bugs that may be plaguing them. There’s no need to measure diatomaceous earth used externally. Just sprinkle it onto the animal in question and rub it into the coat.
One thing you should be aware of when applying DE to livestock is that excessive use can dry out and damage the coat. Limit the applications to once a month except in extreme cases. (These cases likely need some extra care to boost their immune systems.)
Chickens suffering from external parasites can be allowed to dust-bathe in DE. If the nesting boxes are harboring unwanted insects, sprinkle some diatomaceous earth there, too.
To use diatomaceous earth to kill worms and other internal parasites, sprinkle the appropriate amount over the animal’s food. Various sources (and some personal experience) suggest the following dosages:
- Cattle: 1 ounce daily.
- Horses: 5 ounces daily.
- Hogs: 2% of feed ration.
- Goats and sheep: 1 teaspoon per 150 pounds of body weight.
- Llamas and alpacas: 1 teaspoon per 150 pounds of body weight.
- Chickens: 5% of feed ration.
- Dogs: 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight.
- Cats: 1/2 teaspoon daily for kittens, 1 teaspoon daily for adult cats.
However, it is always a good idea to check the bag before using DE. If the manufacturer offers specific recommended doses, use those.
Many animals will also eat diatomaceous earth free-choice if it is protected from wind and rain.
As you can see, diatomaceous earth is extremely easy to use, and it is both safe and effective. Give it a try!
A microscope image of diatomaceous earth, just in case you were wondering what it looks like up close.