Old-Time Farm Remedies Best Forgotten

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If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge fan of home remedies. I remember my mother using baking soda for indigestion, and at the end of a long day, I love taking a bath with epsom salt and essential oils.

But not all old-time remedies are better than modern alternatives. In fact, I’m downright shocked that I continue to see the following remedies suggested by people on social media. And every now and then, someone will even say their vet told them to use it!

Sevin dust for lice or mites on chickens and other livestock

Sevin dust label

This is probably the most commonly suggested idea that makes me cringe. Obviously, these people have never read the label on Sevin dust. It says,

“Do not apply this product in a way that will contact any person or pet, either directly or through drift. Keep people and pets out of the area during application. Do not allow people or pets to enter the treated area until dusts have settled.”

The label also tells you how long you should wait after using Sevin dust before harvesting vegetables that have been treated with it.

Of course, there is no information on eggs or milk withdrawal time because the product is not supposed to be used on live animals. But no doubt the poison does get into the eggs and milk of animals that have gobs of this stuff sprinkled on their bodies and left there. If you’re in doubt about how much can be absorbed through the skin, consider the fact that an estrogen patch has 1/20 as much estrogen as a pill.

The label even tells you to wear latex or rubber gloves when applying the product and to flush the skin with water if it comes into contact with skin. And in case you were wondering, yes this product is a carcinogen. So, if you’re producing your own food because you want it to be as natural as possible, it is not a good idea to use this product in your garden — much less on animals that are producing food for you!

A better treatment for lice or mites

There are commercial products today made specifically for livestock that can be used for lice and mites. When using products made specifically for livestock, the label will tell you about withdrawal times for food produced by those animals, such as eggs, milk, and meat.

For an in-depth look at poultry mites, see Mites on Chickens.

You can also use natural products, such as sulfur. My favorite remedy for lice on goats is to simply shave off their hair, if the weather is warm enough, which basically makes the lice homeless.

For lice, if it’s too cold to shave off the goat’s hair, you can use a pour-on dewormer, such as ivermectin, moxidectin, or eprinomectin, which are off-label for goats, but do kill sucking and biting lice and mites.

UltraBoss is labeled for cattle, sheep, goats, and horses and is effective against lice and flies. I’ve never heard anyone say that any of the pour-ons didn’t work for them, so you have legitimate options.

See Mites in Goats, to learn more.

See Chicken Lice: Expert Tips for Identification and Management, for further info.

Burnt motor oil for fleas, lice, and mites

I remember my father pouring used motor oil on our dog’s back when I was growing up in the 70s. This was south Texas, where fleas were terrible, and nothing we bought at the store worked any better back then. But we’ve learned a lot in the last 40-50 years, and we have more options today.

Unfortunately, I still see this one suggested sometimes on social media for fleas, as well as for mites or lice on goats. Petroleum products are carcinogenic and should not be put on the skin of any living creature. Plus it gets into the bloodstream, which means it will be in the meat and milk of the animal. Bathing the animal later does NOT get the chemicals out of their blood, milk, or meat.

A better treatment for fleas, lice, and mites

There are plenty of commercial options available today that really work, but do not use any dog products (such as Frontline) on goats or other food-producing animals because they have not been tested, so there are no established withdrawal times for meat and milk. Goats don’t get fleas, but I do get this question from new goat owners who don’t know this yet.

In addition to all of the commercial flea products, diatomaceous earth can kill fleas, as well as lice on chickens. Diatomaceous earth kills by dehydration. Unfortunately, it does not kill lice on goats because that’s a different species of lice that has a harder exoskeleton that’s not affected by DE. (Remember, all parasites are species-specific.)

Tide detergent for bloat in goats, cows, or sheep

This goes back to the mid-20th century when Tide was a powdered detergent that was mostly surfactant and fragrance. Commercially available bloat preparations are surfactants, so the logic behind this is decent. However, modern Tide is totally different than what was available back in the day when this was a popular remedy.

Today’s Tide is far more concentrated because of HE machines, and it contains 27 ingredients, including optical brighteners, water softening chemicals, enzymes, polymers, colors, and fragrance, in addition to five different surfactants. Many of these ingredients are carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors, which is why many people today have chosen more natural laundry detergents — and that’s just because we don’t want them on our skin! None of the ingredients in modern laundry detergent are meant to be consumed orally and are poisons.

What happens when Tide or other modern detergent is consumed? In 2012 and 2013, 700 children wound up in the hospital and one child died after consuming Tide laundry pods. In 2013 and 2014, 62,264 children were poisoned by laundry or dishwasher detergent, and 117 required intubation while 21 went into a coma, and two died.

A better treatment for bloat

There is a commercial treatment for bloat, but you can also drench a goat with an ounce or two of cooking oil, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or whatever cooking oil you have in your kitchen.

To learn more, see Goat Bloat.

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22 thoughts on “Old-Time Farm Remedies Best Forgotten”

  1. Thank you. I am admin of a goat health page and I see people suggesting Sevin dust I cringe as well. Better to smother the things with coconut oil. I never believed that bloat being treated with a toxic detergent was prudent and that also makes me cringe. Good old baking soda and a vegetable oil (not canola) Is best. The practice of leaving balking soda out free choice also is just wrong and it interferes with the animals ability to make their own bicarbonate and make bloat so much harder to treat. This is one of the reasons I consider you a friend and why I own you book and follow your posts and blog so religiously.

    • In regards to the comment about NOT using Canola oil. What’s wrong with canola? How is it different from the rest?

      • In terms of treating bloat, there is no difference in the various vegetable oils. I personally don’t consume canola because it’s high in omega 6 and unless organic, it’s genetically modified. But I’m not the person who made the comment. Perhaps she will pop in and let you know why she doesn’t like canola for goats.

    • I agree about smothering with oil. When my daughter was little she was constantly catching lice from school. The toxic pharmacy treatments were not killing the lice. I finally smothered her head in olive oil, wrapped in saran wrap and put a tuque hat on her overnight. In the morning combed out all the critters and washed her hair. It worked amazingly better with no toxins.

  2. Everything I have read indicates that free choice baking soda is ok b/c goats will only consume it if they need it. I know many people do not use it, but I lost one of my very first goats to rumen acidosis and I was devastated; only to find out if she had access to baking soda she may have lived. Even though my goats now get 90% of their diet from hay and browse, only small portion of pellet food to get them into the barn at night, I still leave baking soda out just in case. It is rarely consumed, but occasionally I can tell some has been taken. Deborah – are you aware of any new info/studies that indicate this should not be done?

  3. I was looking up the possible side effects of Eprinex and came across this… just a reminder that mistakes are made and we should always for our goat’s response to anything… I do remember most of the ones you mentioned. ICK! (: https://www.recallguide.org/recalled-list/ and this one…https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=03f2450c-f15c-4123-9a7d-2dd34449e69b I did use Ivomec years ago and I am a bit concerned about the studies, as they are not always even handed. JMO from years worked at a hospital. Anyway, I am wondering if the Eprinex for cattle is the same one being used on other animals? Do they have one for the goats specifically? Thank you.

    • Eprinex is labeled for cattle only. The only dewormers that are labeled for goats are Safeguard and Valbazen. Although the dosage is the cattle dosage, which is not correct. Goats need 2x the cattle dosage for the dewormers to work. Morantel tartrate, a feed additive dewormer, is also labeled for goats.

      Commercial dewormers are actually very safe. I’ve never heard of any problems with them when they were used at the correct dosage. I have heard of goats being killed when someone overdosed levamisole, but that’s it. Dewormers other than levamisole have a very wide margin of safety.

  4. What is best used to treat mites on goats? Also is it ok to brush the scaly skin off the goats. I have one that has a lot of flaky skin.

  5. My beloved neighbor/vet has recommended I use permectrin to treat the (notably few) (sucking or biting) lice on my yearling Nigerian doe. My hang-up begins because she has VERY sensitive skin, her first (and only) round of topical pest treatment landed her in a two-three month long state of hair loss around the dosing area as well as a topical rash that was difficult to treat. I’d like to help my girls rid themselves of the lice, but I have to be careful of her delicate skin. I think diatomaceous earth might be a viable solution (as it’s middle of winter and I can’t shave them nor wet them down), do you have experience of it actually working. I’ve seen many mixed reviews.
    Thank you

    • I am not a fan of permectrin or any form of permethrin. You can use pour-on ivermectin or eprinomectin. You would only put it between her shoulder blades, so if there was any hair loss, it would be a very small area. That said, I’ve used it many times and never had a goat lose hair, although I know it can happen.

      You could also try sulfur. It is available as a dust, as well as dip.

      I never had any luck with DE, and I used a LOT the last time I tried it — so much that it dried out my goat’s skin so badly that she was actually scratching much worse afterwards than before. I felt horrible because it was the middle of winter, so not a good time to bathe her and try to get it off. When you see mixed reviews on something, I think it’s usually caused by people misdiagnosing and thinking they have a problem when they really didn’t, so doing nothing would have had the same result.

  6. I have angora goats and a couple of baby doll sheep who all have lice of some sort- it’s too cold to shave them. Was going to try the pour on Eprinex . How much do I use per goat per pound??

  7. Regarding baking soda: I leave it out free choice. Goats are good at self-medicating. Some times they eat none for weeks at a time and some times the amount consumed is noticeable.
    We had severe wildfires a few years ago and our air was badly polluted, so much so we were advised to stay indoors for days. Our poor animals do not have that option. What I noticed during that time was baking soda was being consumed greatly! I had to refill their feeder several times when I rarely had to even add to it. I mentioned this on our local goat group and others noticed it as well.
    Conclusion: The excess smoke was causing an imbalance in the goats’ systems and they needed that baking soda to get things back in balance or keep them in balance. Because it was happening with other goats in our area, it was not unique to my own herd. Would I have lost goats without the baking soda? We will never know! However, it hurt nothing to have it there for them and it may have saved their health and perhaps their lives. If they don’t need it, they will ignore it.

    • Hi Glenna Rose
      Yes- free choice baking soda is a great recommendation!
      It’s what’s in the medicine cabinet when your goat’s rumen is not feeling well. They are very good at self-medicating.
      Thanks for sharing your story with us!

  8. You blew my mind away by revealing that we may be able to get rid of lice from our farm animals by pouring ivermectin. My uncle has a couple of sheep that suffer from lice attacks. That’s it, I’m gonna have to talk to him about this before he finds someone who can treat them.


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