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Big Idea #2: Learning to trust natural livestock products
Slowly but surely, I'm starting to trust all natural dewormers on our farm.
Before we dive in, there’s still time to enter the Good Meat Project’s giveaway! You could win a chest freezer, meat thermometer or some cooking classes. It’s free and I reeeally hope someone from the Nettle Valley network wins.
Let’s get into Big Idea #2! Doctor Tom Roskos DVM, aka Doc Tom, and I schemed up the next phase of our Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperators’ on farm experiment comparing chemical dewormers with all natural dewormers a few weeks ago at the Marbleseed Conference.
Let me back up a bit. Pastured pigs are naturally exposed to parasites when they ingest long-lasting eggs that can lay dormant in the soil for years or eat parasite host species such as earthworms. While these parasites do not affect the humans eating the pork, parasites can cause health problems in pigs and poor feed conversion ratios by competing with the pig for nutrients.
Chemical treatments for parasites can be really rough on the soil food web AND are losing efficacy, so we want to move away from them entirely… eventually. First I have to prove to myself that the alternative all natural dewormers actually work, because if they don’t, it could be disastrous for our pigs and our bottom line.
This past year, we treated all our feeder pigs with a chemical dewormer (LevaMed) to kill off any mature, egg laying parasites so we don’t add to the pasture worm load. Six weeks later, we treated a group with SwineX (a powder made from Neem Bark, Ginger Root, Garlic Bulb, Diatomaceous Earth, Black Walnut Hulls) instead of LevaMed and compared the average daily weight gain of the two groups.
The full report with the nitty gritty details will be published soon, but spoiler alert: performance was comparable!
During our conversations at Marbleseed, Doc Tom and I agreed that next year there ought to be a group of pigs that goes through the whole season without receiving LevaMed. Here’s the plan: this year all the pigs will receive the natural dewormer SwineX when they arrive, then six to eight weeks later we’ll treat some with SwineX again, some with LevaMed, and then *deep breath* some won’t receive any dewormer. Maybe what we’ll figure out is that the pigs have enough natural immunity to handle the parasites on their own. Crossing my fingers!