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Transitioning From Chemical To Natural Worming In Sheep – A Comprehensive Guide

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Transitioning your sheep flock from chemical to natural deworming methods involves a thoughtful blend of herd management strategies. Natural sheep deworming takes effort but is always worthwhile, especially if you want to provide your family with delicious, yummy, organic sheep meat or dairy.

Adorable lamb standing on the green grass meadow with a flock in the background.

We aim to share detailed strategies to help transition from synthetic to natural sheep deworming without stress.

Sound enticing? Then let’s continue!

Natural Sheep Deworming Basics

Parasites are a natural part of a sheep’s ecosystem. It’s impractical to eradicate 100% of your sheep’s parasites, as a small number helps boost your sheep’s immune system. However, issues arise when the parasitic numbers become unbalanced, often due to confinement, poor hygiene, or overgrazing.

Chemical sheep deworming, while effective in the short term, can lead to resistant parasite strains and inorganic food supplies. Natural deworming methods offer a sustainable alternative, focusing on maintaining a balance rather than eradication.

Read More – 11 Gorgeous Black And White Sheep Breeds – With Pictures!

7 Natural Sheep Dewormers

Sheep grazing and sharing the paddock with a horse.

Garlic and diatomaceous earth are two of our favorite natural chemical dewormers for sheep. While there’s no scientific proof that either ingredient works as a dewormer, both have noteworthy reputations for helping manage internal cattle parasites. Furthermore, while garlic and DE are our favorite chemical dewormers, a few other methods work superiorly. 

So, let’s examine garlic and DE in closer detail, plus five other organic sheep deworming strategies you may not have heard of before.

1. Rotational Grazing As A Natural Parasite Control Strategy

Black and white sheep grazing in a lovely green meadow.

Rotational grazing is an excellent management practice that can help naturally eliminate sheep parasites. Rotational grazing works by breaking the parasite life cycle. It aims to move the sheep between different pasture areas to prevent overgrazing.

A pasture not grazed by sheep or goats for at least six months can significantly reduce the parasite burden. Many parasite eggs hatch during pasture resting, and the baby parasite larvae cannot find a host. Pasture resting allows time for parasite eggs and larvae to die off naturally.

This 100% organic sheep deworming method, combined with other natural parasite control strategies, can significantly reduce the reliance on synthetic dewormers and contribute to a more sustainable, organic, and healthy farming practice.

Rotational grazing also has other little-known benefits. Rotational grazing allows pastures to recover, leading to healthier grass and soil. Rotational grazing also grants sheep access to fresh, nutrient-rich grass in each new paddock.

One of the only downsides of rotational grazing is that it requires attentive planning, land, and monitoring. You may also need additional fencing and water resources to accommodate your paddock rotation.

Here are a few tips to help brainstorm the perfect paddock rotation practice.

Pasture Division

The first step is to divide your grazing area into smaller paddocks. The number of divisions depends on your land, forage crop availability, season, and flock size.

Grazing Schedule

Allow sheep to graze in one paddock while other paddocks rest and regenerate. The duration of grazing in each paddock varies. But, it often ranges from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on pasture growth, size, and the time of year.

Rest Period

After grazing a paddock, let it rest long enough to break the life cycle of parasites. Resting takes at least 30 to 60 days but can be longer, especially during cooler months when parasites are more resilient. A more extended rest period of 12 months is appropriate if you want to kill as many parasites as possible and ensure a clean paddock.

Monitoring Grass Length

Ideally, sheep should graze when the grass is four inches tall or higher. Grazing below this height increases the risk of sheep ingesting parasites, as many larvae dwell near the ground.

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2. Pasture Management To Control Parasites In Sheep

A sheep and lamb relaxing in a rustic and cozy stable.

One of the most underrated ways to treat worms and parasites naturally is to discourage an environment where parasites can thrive. That’s where pasture management comes into play.

Effective pasture management is crucial in reducing the parasite load in sheep. If left unchecked, parasites can quickly multiply in your sheep stable or farmyard pasture. Their eggs and larvae end up on the ground, leading to your sheep eating them while grazing. Here’s how to manage pastures and minimize this risk.

Sanitation Stress

Stress negatively impacts your sheep’s immune system and performance. Ensure your sheep stay comfortable, relaxed, and healthy. Avoid stressful conditions, malnutrition, and a messy barn, all of which can stress and weaken your sheep. Always clean up manure, and keep your stable area, barn, fields, farmyards, and pasture as sanitary as possible! 

Stocking Stress

Overstocking leads to overgrazing, which stresses the grass and shortens the turf, where parasites are more likely to be ingested by sheep. Overstocking your paddock can also lead to excess manure, unsanitary conditions, and more parasite exposure. (We know this sounds gross, but adult parasites lay larvae that get sent out in sheep feces. So, the more sheep poop you have lying around, the more potential parasite exposure.)

Pasture Harrowing

Parasite larvae hate hot, direct sunlight! So, during hot, dry weather, harrowing pastures can help expose parasite eggs and larvae to the sun, which can kill them. However, exercise caution, as it can also spread parasites if conditions aren’t right.

(It can take three or four weeks of direct sunlight to kill the pesky parasites.)

Additional Considerations

Pasture management isn’t a one-time endeavor! It takes ongoing work and consideration of the following.

Fecal Egg Count Monitoring

Regular fecal egg counts can help determine the parasite load in your flock and the effectiveness of your pasture management strategies.

Nutrient Management

Healthy pastures provide better nutrition for your sheep. Weeds can take over poorly managed pastures, reducing the available grazing area and contributing to overgrazing. Regular soil testing and appropriate fertilization can maintain pasture health.

Water Sources

Ensure that water sources are clean and away from areas where parasites might be prevalent, such as muddy, manure-rich areas.

Keep a close eye on your flock for signs of parasite infestation. Regular fecal tests can help identify and manage parasite loads.

And always seek advice from a veterinary professional, especially when introducing new treatments or changing existing ones!

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3. Garlic As A Natural Vermifuge

Large winter garlic cloves harvested and resting on the wooden table.

Garlic is famous for its medicinal properties that date back centuries. Most notable is its ability to act as a vermifuge (worm expeller). We also read an interesting study hypothesizing that garlic doesn’t kill worm eggs outright. Instead, garlic may prevent the parasitic eggs from hatching.

While garlic requires careful dosage and consistent administration, the benefits of sustainable farming practices make it a valuable tool in holistic livestock management.

As with any natural remedy, it’s essential to monitor its effectiveness and consult a veterinarian, especially when making significant changes to your flock’s health care routine.

How Much Garlic For Sheep

There is no set-in-stone garlic deworming dosage with scientific backing. And, while there’s no one-size-fits-all dosage, a general guideline is to use approximately one to two cloves of fresh garlic per sheep per day. It’s wise to start with small doses and gradually increase to monitor how the sheep react.

Forms Of Garlic

Consider the following garlic forms for your sheep.

  • Fresh Cloves – Fresh garlic cloves are the most potent. They can be crushed or minced and mixed directly into the feed.
  • Garlic Juice Or Extract – Garlic juice or extract is a convenient option. Mix it into the water or drizzle over the feed. Ensure even distribution to prevent some sheep from getting more than others.
  • Garlic Powder – While less potent than fresh garlic, garlic powder can be a more accessible alternative. Mix it thoroughly with the feed.

Remember to ask your farm vet for advice! Tell them you’re interested in organic sheep deworming. Then, ask their opinion on garlic as a sheep dewormer.

4. Diatomaceous Earth As A Natural Dewormer In Sheep

Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth in a glass jar with serving utensils.

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an organic, soft, sedimentary rock. DE crumbles into a delicate white to off-white powder. It has gained popularity as a natural dewormer in sheep farming. It’s composed of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae.

Adding diatomaceous earth to sheep’s mineral mix can help control parasites. It scrapes against worms and their eggs attached to the sheep’s intestinal walls.

Dosage And Preparation

We didn’t find a scientific method clarifying how much DE to use for sheep deworming. However, a general guideline is about two percent of the dry weight of the sheep’s total feed intake. Two percent of your sheep’s total feed intake likely translates to one-quarter to one-half cup of DE daily for an average-sized sheep.

Food Grade DE

Using food-grade diatomaceous earth for animal applications is crucial. This form is safe for consumption, unlike the DE used for pool filters or industrial purposes, which can be harmful.

Mixing With Feed

The most common method of administering DE to sheep is mixing it directly into their feed. Ensure it gets distributed evenly to prevent clumping and to ensure each sheep receives an equal amount.

Dry Storage

Keep DE in a dry, moisture-free environment. Moisture can reduce its effectiveness.

Monitoring Effectiveness

Regularly monitor the sheep’s health and fecal matter. While some farmers report positive results, scientific studies of the efficacy of DE as a dewormer are inconclusive. For that reason, many wise homesteaders use DE as part of a broader parasite control strategy rather than relying on it as a sole treatment.

Respiratory Precautions

When handling DE, it’s important to avoid inhaling fine dust, as it can irritate the lungs. Use a mask or respirator during application.

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5. Herbal Dewormers For Sheep

Lovely yellow flowers of Birdsfoot Trefoil.

Various herbs and plants are famous for their anthelmintic properties. However, their effectiveness can vary, and monitoring the flock for signs of infestation is essential.

Again, we urge you to consult your vet before trying these herbal sheep deworming remedies. The following herbs have good reputations for helping manage worms. But they almost always lack scientific studies that confirm their long-term efficacy.

Common Herbs Used

Primary herbs include garlic, wormwood, black walnut, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, and cayenne. Each herb has unique properties that help expel or control internal sheep parasites.

We also want to mention birdsfoot trefoil, an herbaceous legume. We’ve read from several reliable sources that birdfoot trefoil can make an excellent forage for sheep and might help prevent parasitic infection.

Pros Of Herbal Dewormers

Herbal dewormers offer a natural, mild, chemical-free option, reducing the risk of synthetic residues in meat and milk.

They can also be more sustainable if herbs are grown or foraged on the farm.

And many herbs have other health benefits. Potential benefits for sheep include boosting immunity or aiding digestion.

Cons Of Herbal Dewormers

The biggest problem with using natural herbs as sheep dewormers is that they’re primarily unproven. The effectiveness of herbal dewormers might vary based on herb quality, correct identification, and proper dosing.

A lack of standardized dosages and preparations can lead to inconsistent results.

In other words, we searched every academic library and farmer’s almanac we could find for natural herb dewormers. However, we couldn’t locate any viable studies proving that herbal remedies are a bullet-proof dewormer method for sheep.

Herbs To Avoid Or Use With Caution

Be careful implementing herbs into your natural deworming routine. Herbs can be incredibly potent, so research or consult a professional before using or feeding them to your farm animals, sheep, or pets. Here are some examples of herbs to be careful of.

Yew

Consider all parts of yew highly toxic. Never feed it to your farm animals!

Black Walnut

Black walnut is known to be highly toxic to horses. The ingestion or even bedding on shavings containing as little as 20% black walnut can cause laminitis, a severe and painful hoof inflammation.

Pennyroyal

Pennyroyal is famous for its strong minty aroma. Unfortunately, it may stimulate uterine contractions. Therefore, never use it for pregnant animals.

Comfrey

While beneficial for some conditions, comfrey contains compounds harmful to the liver, doubly so in high doses or prolonged use.

Wormwood

Often used in deworming, wormwood can be too intense for pregnant animals and might cause harm.

Tansy

This herb can be highly toxic. Never use it around pregnant and lactating animals.

White Willow Bark

White willow bark is an excellent and natural source of aspirin. But, it should be used cautiously, particularly in pregnant animals, as we read it might be unsafe.

Garlic And Onions

Large amounts of onions and garlic can cause anemia in some animals, especially dogs and cats.

6. Multispecies Grazing As A Parasite Control Strategy

Calf and sheep relaxing and sharing the same lovely green meadow forage area.

Grazing strategically with sheep and other livestock like horses or cattle can help reduce worm counts, as neither animal shares worms with sheep. In other words, different parasites attack different farm animals. By rotating sheep with cows or horses, you starve the parasites that may reside in a pasture by disrupting the parasite’s lifecycle.

This approach takes advantage of the fact that many parasites are host-specific, meaning they latch onto particular animals and cannot survive on others.

Interrupting Parasite Life Cycles

When sheep graze alongside or after non-susceptible animals like cattle or horses, the life cycle of sheep-specific parasites can be interrupted. Cattle and horses can ingest parasite larvae that affect sheep, but these parasites cannot complete their life cycle in these hosts, thus reducing the overall parasite burden in the pasture.

Improved Pasture Utilization

Different species graze differently. For example, cows graze grasses more uniformly, while sheep might graze forbs, turf, shrubs, and broadleaf plants. This complementary grazing can lead to more efficient pasture utilization and reduced overgrazing, which is beneficial for parasite control.

Reduction In Parasite Load

The physical action of larger animals like cattle moving through a pasture can help disrupt the habitat for parasites, further reducing the likelihood of sheep ingesting them.

Species Compatibility

Ensure that the species you choose to graze together are compatible regarding their grazing behavior, temperament, parasite susceptibility, and nutritional needs.

While multispecies grazing can reduce sheep-specific parasites, be aware of the potential for other health issues that can arise from interspecies interactions, such as transmitting certain diseases.

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7. Natural Ingredients For Parasite Resistance In Sheep

Harvesting fresh pumpkin seeds from the autumn gourd harvest.

Supplements like apple cider vinegar, neem oil, pumpkin seeds, and other natural deworming products may enhance parasite resistance in your flock. Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is especially famous for its folksy health benefits, including improving digestive health and boosting the immune system. ACV can be added to water (in a diluted form) or mixed into feed.

Again, we remind you that most natural sheep dewormers lack scientific proof. (We looked everywhere and couldn’t find any!) Yet, we also confess that many natural ingredients have excellent reputations among homesteaders and may be worth investigating.

Natural sheep deworming methods.

Conclusion

Transitioning to natural worming methods for your sheep is a commendable step towards sustainable and organic farming. While it requires a more hands-on approach and a deeper understanding of sheep health and pasture management, the benefits of a naturally healthy flock are immeasurable.

We also want to remind you not to rely on chemicals alone, whether synthetic or organic. Pasture management is usually the best way to manage parasites. That way, you don’t have to worry about chemically resistant parasite strains plaguing your flock!

What about you?

  • Have your sheep ever had a bad case of worms or parasites?
  • Have you had good luck with organic sheep pest control methods?
  • Are you concerned about the sustainability of synthetic sheep dewormers?
  • Do you know of any organic sheep parasite dewormers we didn’t list here?
  • Do you agree that pasture rotation is likely the best way to manage parasites without synthetics?

We put a lot of thought into these sheep-raising topics and hope to hear from like-minded sheep fanciers.

We thank you again for reading.

Have a great day!

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Natural Parasite Control For Sheep | References, Guides, And Works Cited.

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