Unpleasant as it might be, having livestock goes hand-in-hand with having parasites. We humans are pretty good at keeping ourselves parasite-free what with our opposable thumbs, indoor plumbing and modern medicine.
Pigs and cows? Not so much.
So that means that eventually, you’re gonna have a problem. For me, that problem has arrived in the form of the hog louse. I’ve never had lice, but from the amount of scratching that the pigs are doing, I’m assuming it’s not exactly comfortable. Plus we’re going to have the first 3 pigs farrowing (giving birth) on our farm here at the end of the month. We don’t want the youngsters getting off on the wrong foot now do we?
So how to get rid of lice? Google tells me that there is a huge list of insecticides that are just perfect for getting rid of the hog louse! That’s all well and good, but we’ve kinda been telling folks that we do the whole no-chemical thing…
So what then do the organic farmers do? As it turns out, some of them were nice enough to make a nice list [pdf] of “organic approved” parasite control methods. How thoughtful!
Our first obstacle was to find the appropriate ingredients locally. While the local farm store had an entire asile of chemicals & antibiotics, the natural stuff was harder to find. I ended up finding the stuff I was looking for labeled as fly-spray for horses.
The active ingredient in this concoction is Pyrethrin, not to be confused with it’s synthetic doppelganger Permethrin. Pyrethrin is a naturally-occurring insecticide & insect repellant derived from the Chrysanthemum flower.
Couple this natural insecticide with the the time honored hog-oiling method, and we just might have something. Hog-oiling has traditionally been done with used motor oil. Seeing as how we don’t want to put much used motor oil back onto our pastures, we opted instead for an equally-effective vegetable oil. All the oil has to do is coat the lice and deprive them of oxygen, a veggie oil can do it just as well as a petroleum product.
For the pigs sake we warmed the oil up by the woodstove first. It is -5°F out there, I’d have some angry pigs if I were to go pouring cold oil all over them in this weather.
Warmed up and mixed at about an 1:8 ratio, I was ready to go grease up some pigs.
The oiling went better than I expected, they really didn’t mind the warm oil. With a generous splash behind the ears (the biggest problem spot) and a stripe poured down their back, we were ready to go.
The biggest problem is that all the very curious and very oily pigs decided that it would be awfully convenient if they could rub their oily heads on me. Good thing it’s nothing toxic, cause there’s oil & Pyrethrin all over my insulated bibs now…
To finish up we’ll dust their bedding with Diatemaceous earth to kill any bugs in there. I’ll probably end up oiling them again in 2 weeks to catch any newly hatched lice, by then we’ll have a pretty good idea of how this Pyrethrin & Oil actually works.
If it doesn’t work, organic rules allow Ivomectin as an “emergency” measure. I consider eliminating lice before Winter farrowing an emergency, but we’re going to hope that the oil will take care of it.