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Is Diatomaceous Earth Good For Goats?

I’ve sometimes heard about giving goats diatomaceous earth to goats as a dewormer (among other benefits), but I didn’t know if this was a myth or if it had any merit. So, I did some research to find out more. Here’s what I found about giving goats diatomaceous earth.

There is some evidence that suggests diatomaceous earth works as a goat dewormer, but there are no conclusive studies. It does seem to lower fecal egg counts when given as a supplement over time, but it is not an effective emergency treatment for worms. However, diatomaceous earth is useful for killing lice and fleas on goats.

Diatomaceous earth taken internally may not have the same effect on all species of goats, nor all species of parasites. When applied topically, inhalation of diatomaceous earth (DE) can cause respiratory issues in goats, especially kids.

Despite the gaps in our scientific knowledge, using diatomaceous earth can still be a part of a natural approach for a goat herd as long as you use it with care and understand its benefits and its limitations. 

Let’s take a closer look at how DE can be an effective aid in killing pests that bother goats.

What Is Diatomaceous Earth and How Does It Kill Pests?

Diatomaceous Earth in a bowl

Diatomaceous earth is a powdery substance that is the crushed remains of fossilized algae. It’s mainly composed of silica and other minerals. While particles of DE are too small to affect a mammal’s skin, their sharp microscopic edges are deadly to some insects, including fleas and potentially intestinal parasites.

Essentially, diatomaceous earth inflicts deep cuts to the insect’s exoskeletons and causes them to dry out.

Diatomaceous earth passes through the intestinal tract easily and has long been used as a popular alternative to chemical dewormers for humans, horses, cows, and other livestock—including goats

Does Diatomaceous Earth Work as a Dewormer for Goats?

There are no scientific studies that prove the DE can kill parasites in the intestinal tract of goats, although many goat farmers offer anecdotal evidence. Feeding your goats DE may, however, reduce the parasite load in pastures by killing off fly larvae in their manure.

It seems that to be most effective, diatomaceous earth must be consumed by goats for at least three weeks before fecal egg counts (the number of fly eggs in the manure) show a decrease.

A 2020 study conducted by the University of Arkansas added diatomaceous earth to the feed of lambs that were a species already genetically resistant to parasites, in addition to starting with a low parasite count. The study concluded that the lambs’ fecal egg counts remained the same for the first three weeks and then showed a decrease.

This delayed effect suggests that what effectiveness diatomaceous earth has on internal parasites likely comes from either its ability to slow the development of larvae or the nutritional value of the trace minerals that it contains.

Diatomaceous earth should not be used on pregnant goats, or on goats that are actively sick with a high parasite count. You should also only feed your goats pure, food-grade diatomaceous earth. Additionally, consult your regular large-animal veterinarian before introducing diatomaceous earth or changing your goats’ diets.

Consider using diatomaceous earth as a supplement to target parasite larvae development over sixty to ninety days in addition to your chemical dewormers for more acute treatment.

For a comprehensive overview of the available scientific literature on diatomaceous earth as a dewormer for livestock, check out this video from Sez the Vet.

Will Diatomaceous Earth Kill Lice on Goats?

Diatomaceous earth will kill adult lice on goats, but it won’t affect their larvae. You can gently rub handfuls of diatomaceous earth into your goats’ coats, but you should avoid their heads completely to keep them from inhaling it.

Inhaling diatomaceous earth will cause respiratory distress in kids and could even be fatal. You should also not treat nursing mothers with diatomaceous earth, as their kids may accidentally inhale it when they go in to nurse.

You can, however, freely use diatomaceous earth to kill lice on brushes, blankets, or in stalls where lice-infested goats have spread their visitors. You could even use it on carpets or other surfaces in your own house if you think the infestation has spread that far!

Simply sprinkle the powder on and around an item or location, and allow it to sit for up to twenty-four hours. Then shake off or sweep up the powder.

Also, avoid using diatomaceous earth to kill lice on goat kids, as they and other baby animals, with their developing lungs and thin internal membranes, are most affected by inhaling diatomaceous earth’s fine particles.

Lice are most often introduced into a herd by a newcomer, so treat and quarantine any new goats for at least three weeks before introducing them to their new friends. 

This ensures that all the lice eggs will have hatched and then (hopefully) have been killed off by your diatomaceous earth or another delousing treatment. For an especially severe lice problem, consult your veterinarian.

DE is not an appropriate treatment for emergencies where your goat’s parasite load is heavy or is acute enough to make your goat sick. Consult your veterinarian for the best way to treat your goats.

How Do You Give Goats Diatomaceous Earth? 

To provide diatomaceous earth to your goats orally, simply mix diatomaceous earth into your goats’ feed or grain. We recommend adding the diatomaceous earth to the feed before providing it to your goats, as this will allow the finer particles to settle so that they are not inhaled.

On the other hand, for a topical application to kill lice, start with one or two handfuls depending on the size of the goat. Rub the diatomaceous earth into its coat with gentle motions to prevent creating a cloud of diatomaceous earth that might be inhaled by your goat.

Pro-Terra’s DEsect Organic Insecticide, whose main ingredient is diatomaceous earth, suggests an alternative application.

They recommend mixing a pound of their product with a gallon of water in a hand sprayer and then using the sprayer to lay down a coating of diatomaceous earth around cages or living areas. 

This type of application is worth trying since the water solution does not allow the fine particles of the diatomaceous earth to be inhaled as easily. You can use the sprayer method to create boundaries around sheds that shelter your goats, or around your feed storage. 

You could even use it to apply diatomaceous earth to a goat that resists getting a hands-on rub-down. If you are super gung-ho, you could also spray down piles of manure in your pasture to inhibit the growth of larvae there.

How Much Diatomaceous Earth Should You Give Goats? 

Generally, using too much diatomaceous earth is not a concern with goats, but it can create a cloud of particles that can then be inhaled. Similarly, when you are giving diatomaceous earth to your goats in their feed, adjust the amount based on their size and individual differences.

DE can be given to goats topically (rubbing it on their skin) or orally.

Considering the potential negative effects above, the information shared by other goat owners mentions tailoring the amount to each goat. Consider each goat’s different size, coat density, and potential lice problem. 

Diatomaceous Earth Online recommends an initial dosage of 10% DE in your goats’ dry feed per day for 90 days, then a reduced dosage of 5% in dry feed per day on an ongoing basis. 

This comes out to half a cup per day to two cups per day, depending on the size and weight of your goats.

Remember that diatomaceous earth seems to be most effective when used on an ongoing basis to gradually reduce and manage parasites. Before providing diatomaceous earth to your goats, or changing their diet, consult your local large-animal veterinarian.