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.
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.|
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!
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.