Sunday, March 8, 2015

How I'm Controlling Goat Lice Naturally (with essential oils)

You all know by now, that I'm a crazy goat lady. Well, you're about to discover that I'm also a crazy oil lady.

I like to do things as naturally and synthetic chemical-free as possible. That's just a part of who I am. If there's a natural cure, I will seek it out. Herbs, essential oils, nutrition... they're all a part of how I choose to raise my farm animals, as well as my own children.

I'm not implying that I'm an extremist, by any means. If one feels they have to use synthetic chemicals in order to look out for the best interest of their farm animals, I'm not one to judge.

I do feel like natural prevention and cures are an integral part of my own animal husbandry philosophy, and I'm always learning more, and looking to the animals for cues on what they need, and how they feel.

I feel like goats are receptive to essential oils... *ahem*... some more than others.

Yes, they definitely have their scent preferences! They seem to like me better when I wear "Stress Away" essential oil blend (Is it the Lime? The Vanilla? The Ocotea or the Copaiba? The Lavender? I may never know). Cedarwood is another approved scent.

They do have good taste! "Purification," a blend that includes some naturally insect repellent oils like citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, lavandin, tea tree, and myrtle, is a different story. I admit, it's a strong smell... and the goats don't think it's strong in a good way. See the reaction? It's a bit different than the other two.

What Do Essential Oils Have to Do With Goats?

Okay, so you're probably wondering why this crazy oil/goat lady is bringing bottles of oil outside for her goats to sniff. Is it for her own entertainment? Aromatherapy for goats? Is she just easily amused?

Yes, yes, and yes. Oh, and I'm also interested in using essential oils for external parasite control.

By external parasites, I specifically mean LICE. I know... sounds gross... makes you itch just thinking about it. But don't worry- goat lice are species specific, meaning they don't transfer to humans. They don't want to infest you, they only want to infest the goats.

How Do Goats Get Lice, and How Can I Tell if They Have Them?

How/why do goats get these creepy critters? What I've learned since having goats, and the pattern of lice problems I've noticed seems to agree with this, is that goats tend to get lice in the winter. A reason why goats are more succeptable in winter, is that the conditions are just more favorable for the lice. The goats have nice thick coats for them to hide in, the goats are more cooped up together, and less likely to be standing out in the sunlight- which kills the lice.

Now, if it was summer and I noticed lice, I could simply shave the goat to help get rid of them naturally, but since I live in Maine, and it's March (still freezing), I can't just take off their warm winter coats!

Last winter, when I noticed that my goats seemed itchy, and upon closer observation had rough coats and dry flaky skin (along with tiny creepy crawly bugs that I could barely see close to their skin), I used diatomateous Earth, which sort of worked, but dried out their skin even more. I then opted to use Neem oil, which worked quite well.

This year, I started to notice similar symptoms, although not as severe. I wasn't surprised, as we've had SO much snow this winter that the goats have been even more cooped up than usual. Where did the lice come from? I don't know for sure, but I've heard that they can come from the bedding that is put down for them. Anyway, I noticed scratching and rougher coats, and lice upon closer observation.

At least Snowdrop has useful horns for back scratching!

Onto the Treatment...

After a moment of panic, I came to my senses and realized that I had been through this before, and although I did not have Neem oil, I did have some other oils that could help. My first instinct was to use "Purification." It's potent stuff! If I were a louse, I would certainly run away from it!

I wanted to start with a diluted application first, to make sure they weren't too sensitive to it, although I wanted it to be strong enough to actually work.  I started with about 10 drops in 1/2 cup of olive oil.

I'm not gonna lie... the goats ran from the smell... except Snowdrop. Snowdrop is down for a massage anytime, any oil. But the other two? They ran and hid, but I slathered them anyway. Tough love.

I reapplied a few times after that first day, until the pre-mixed oil was all gone. Since then, I've hit 'em with some straight Purification (neat) as well as some Cedarwood oil, every few days. I do think that mixing in a carrier oil is possibly more effective, because with their thick winter coats, the carrier oil will help with penetration, and less quick evaporation. It's so darn cold out, though!

The goats have had some nice sunny days lately, which will help kill any living lice that remain. When I inspect them now, I only see lice that are not moving. Dead lice. Still gross, but less gross. They could use a good brush and a haircut... but that will come with the warmer weather.

I'm sharing this information with you, not to give you my expert advice, because I am not an expert. I am a learner. I've had my goats for a year and 3 months, and I've learned so much in that time both from interacting with them, and learning from people who have more experience with raising goats naturally. I'm confident that these essential oils are safe and effective for goats, and I will hopefully post an update soon that my goats are itch free, with shiny coats and healthy skin!

If you'd like to know how to get some essential oils that are high quality, potent, and pure, click HERE