diatomaceous earth as a dewormer in small ruminant animals

Asked July 5, 2016, 1:50 PM EDT

A few goat and/or sheep farmers and I have been discussing the idea of mixing diatomaceous earth in our food stuffs for our small ruminants. We are looking for an educated opinion as to whether this is a good idea, effective, and at the least not harmful. If this is a suggested practice how much and how often should we be offering? Any thoughts/opinions or suggested reading and resources would be appreciated.

Alpena County Michigan goats

1 Response

Hi -- when it comes to DE, the simplest way to answer your question is "if it worked, we'd all be using it." No one wants to give unnecessary chemical dewormers to their animals and DE seems like a good idea. However, most studies done to date (see http://www.sheepandgoat.com/#!de/c2165 which is an article by a University of Maryland Small Ruminant Specialist) show no effectiveness. There is potential harm to humans for working with DE, too. If you choose to use it, wear a mask and avoid inhaling the powder; use feed grade DE. Some people swear by the effectiveness of DE, but I think they are probably already good managers. Perhaps DE provides some micronutrients the animals need? It seems most effective in dry climates because it is hard for parasite larvae to survive for long in hot and dry climates. If you use DE, it will be important to carefully monitor animals' body condition, FAMACHA scores, bottle jaw score and manure for evidence of parasitism. I wouldn't put much faith in DE as the sole means of parasite control. Practice good sanitation, move animals out of grazing paddocks after 4 or 5 days and don't return for at least 6 weeks; don't let animals graze grass down below 3". Select for animals that rarely need deworming. All these actions should help you more than DE will-- save your money!