Monday, September 26, 2011

Diatomaceous Earth - for internal and external parasites

We generally try to avoid unnecessary chemicals, but one area in which we've been slow to find alternatives is with our animals. Until recently we were regularly drenching the cattle with ivermectin, dosing the dogs with flea treatments and wormers and have occasionally had to dip all the chickens in malthison so get rid of lice. Since we got our milking cow, Bella, we've been reluctant to continue with the chemical treatments as we drink the milk everyday. Luckily we found Bel from Home Grown, who kindly answered my many house cow questions, including recommending Diatomaceous Earth for control of internal and external parasites in cows and cattle in general. I had also read about Diatomaceous Earth for chickens at Fowl Visions.

Diatomaceous Earth, consists of the micro skeletons of fossilised remains of deceased diatoms, which are a type of algae found in both sea water and fresh water. They have sharp edges, which kills both internal and external parasites, while being safe for the animals and the environment. Note that there are several grades of DE, and only FOOD GRADE should be fed to or used externally on animals.

It sounded like a great idea so I started trying to find out where I could buy it. Unfortunately most of our local produce stores hadn't heard of it. On a recent trip to Cairns, we were able to buy 1 kg of locally mined Diatomaceous Earth at the Yungaburra markets (mined in Herberton). I think our closest supply is actually Mt Sylvia Diatomite, near Gatton in the Lockyer Valley, but they will only sell it to our local produce store by the pallet (that's 50X20 kg bags, a bit more than we need!), so we might have to drive down to the mine and pick up a few bags instead! In the meantime, this is how I plan to use it.

Chickens
I have already sprinkled DE in the chickens' layer boxes, they don't often get lice, but I hope this will prevent it occurring again (along with sulphur and lime, just in case!). The one problem with our movable chicken tractors is that they don't have a permanent dust bath area, but they do tend to fluff up in the layer boxes, so this is the best area for our chooks to get an external dose of DE. We should also mix it into their feed at 2% by weight, and as we're now buying layer mash instead of pellets, that should be easy, but that's about 400g for every 20 kg bag of feed, so I need to buy some more!

I used DE, sulphur, lime and then wood shavings to line the layer boxes.
DE, lime and sulphur sprinkled in the layer boxes.
A hen inspects my work.

Cattle
There is not much information about DE used for cattle, I found one paper about control of internal parasites, which seemed to show that DE was as effective as chemical drenches when fed at 2% of dry feed weight as well. There's also a bit of info about brushing it into their coats. This is ok for Bella and Molly, but the steers aren't so tame. We have a backrub and organic fly control for them though, more about that when we get it set up!

Dogs
Apparently you can feed it to the dogs at 2% dry feed and also brush it into their coats to control fleas (and dust around the spots they like to lie down in).

In the Garden
That's right, this website reckons you can use it to control pests in the garden too, so maybe I'll finally get rid of slugs! It is non-selective though, so best to use it only when you have a particular buggy problem so you don't kill all your good bugs too.

Do you use DE?  Where do you get it from?

5 comments:

  1. Hi you can get DE from www.greenharvest.com.au it is called absorbacide 5kg for $39.50 plus postage that is where I got mine from

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  2. I need to buy BULK amounts, so I'm going to have to find a cheaper supply than that! I've just found out that there is a mine near me (Maidenwell Diatomite), so I'm going to try that first....

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  3. NEAT! Please come link up at my new DIYLinky at www.littlehouseinthesuburbs.com! I tried DE once from a pool store, since it's heat treated it's not the same...sigh

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  4. We use DE for pest control here too! Ducks are great for eating slugs!

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    Replies
    1. I've also heard ducks are great for slugs/snails. Hens work, too, but you risk them scratching up your garden. Apparently ducks don't scratch - must be the webbed feet. As such, I've switched my campaign from trying to convince my husband he wants chickens (he doesn't) to wanting ducks (he still doesn't).
      Christine

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, if you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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