This is a sequel post about parasite management, the first can be found here. Today I am going to talk about cross grazing different livestock to help control parasites and keep resistance to de-wormers or heavy parasite loads to a minimum.
We know that good parasite management includes rotating pastures, de-worming (both with herbs and with chemicals) for the specific parasites in your animals, and being careful not to worm with chemicals too often, and using fecal floats to determine parasites, load and de-wormer resistance. So, what do you do when you have a small amount of land and no way to do full, or sometimes even partial, pasture rotation?
Here is what happens if you don’t rotate livestock in typical farming situations (usually mono-culture pens, meaning one type of animal in an area). Your animals pick up parasites. You de-worm. Most of the parasites die if you de-wormed correctly. The rest survive and begin to produce eggs, which are shed onto your pasture. Your livestock eat the larva, this time the larva has some resistance to the wormer. You keep doing this until it seems like your wormer no longer works. You switch wormers, and do this again. You still have resistant parasites to the first de-wormer, and now they resist the second. Even with herbs, you are on a constant cycle of ingest, treat, shed, ingest. Eventually, even with herbs, your livestock are picking up so many parasites that the animal can no longer control the load and either dies or the farmer finds a way to at least temporarily treat the problem until a better solution is found.
Here is where cross-grazing comes into play. Combining pastures with livestock that do not share the same parasites makes it possible to reduce larva ingestion. Here is how it works; you have goats, a couple sheep, and a cow. All are ruminants and susceptible to the same parasites. Even though you keep them in the same pasture, you will have problems because they all shed and ingest the same parasites. Now, add a couple of pigs to the mix. Pigs and ruminants only share one known parasite, and it is not common or easily shared. The ruminants shed parasite eggs, which hatch and are ingested in large part, by the pigs. The pigs shed eggs that will not bother the ruminants, who then ingest the larva from pig parasites, which harmlessly pass through their system. In this way you will have to de-worm less often and de-wormers will remain effective for longer periods of time.
Now, this system can only go so far, especially if you are over-stocking your land, however, it can help. Better still is to set up at minimum two pastures. Rotate your livestock by type (such as ruminants, pig, or fowl) every 8-12 weeks. So, in pasture one you start with your ruminants. In a couple of months, move them to pasture two, and allow your pigs into pasture one. If you have space for more pasture, move each of these groups up in a couple of months and let chickens/ducks/turkeys/etc. into the area the pigs worked last. If you have space for yet one last pasture, you can move the stock one more time and seed the first pasture with fodder plants, and in another month or so move the ruminants back onto pasture one. In this way, you keep parasites for all livestock almost non-existent. If your livestock are healthy, in this system you should not have to use chemicals to de-worm very seldom, if at all. Herbs given in this system help maintain your livestock health and vigor, and help control any parasites the animals do pick up so that the animals remain healthy with minimal effort or expense on the part of the farmer.
In summary, if the farmer grazes 2 or more different livestock together that do not share parasites, he can cut costs and increase livestock health dramatically. If the farmer is able to rotate the same variety of stock to follow each other through different pastures he can nearly eliminate parasite problems in his livestock. To responsibly keep livestock, even as pets, I would recommend at least 2 kinds of stock be kept, whether chickens and goats, pigs and sheep, pigs and chickens, chickens and a cow, etc. Here is to healthy, happy animals and their keepers!