The drench that I am about to list the recipe for is what I use to worm my sheep. It can also be used to treat anemia should the worms (H. contortus, specifically) start to get to the sheep too much. For most sheep, this is all I need to keep the worms in check each summer. I do keep Prohibit around, but only use that in the case the Red Cell/ Magic Cell drench just isn’t enough. It worked quite well since I started using it the summer of 2013, which was the first summer I’d used it. I’m not writing this to promote this method, I’m just sharing my experiences as to what has been working for me and how I am worming my sheep currently.
Something to note as well is that this is a part of an overall regimen that I use to combat worms in my sheep. In addition to the once monthly Red Cell drench I administer, the sheep also always have access to free choice loose goat minerals, with some additions, as well as are administered Mayo cobalt pellets every 8 weeks year round. For more on this, see my article “The Ever Important Minerals.”
About Magic Cell and Red Cell Before I get to the recipe, a little on Red Cell and Magic Cell:
Red Cell and Magic Cell are the same horse iron, mineral, and vitamin supplements, in a thick liquid form, just made by two different companies. I use whichever one is available at the time and have no preference. What is important is the copper, which both have in abundance. It is this copper boost that helps to ensure that my sheep have enough to fight off the H. contortus that so plague sheep. However, these supplements also have a wealth of other important vitamins and minerals that aid the overall health of the sheep.
Cobalt Among the more notable is cobalt, which is important for the synthesis of vitamin B12 in the rumen. B12 is responsible for helping to grow the population of the rumen microorganisms that aid in digestion. It also boosts appetite. However, since we have a lot of things in the water and in the soil that bind up cobalt and copper and little of the actual minerals themselves in the soil, it is hard to get enough of either in the sheep. So when I am making the drench, I also add an additional pinch of cobalt for each sheep.
Selenium and Vitamin E There are also selenium and vitamin E in this drench. Both are necessary for each to be effective; one cannot work without the other. Selenium helps to make strong muscles, and is especially important in the birthing process. Sufficient selenium means stronger muscles for contractions. A lack of enough selenium can lead to difficult births and lambs born with white muscle disease, which is a severe enough selenium deficiency that the lamb is too weak to even stand or nurse. Vitamin E is an immune booster, but its main function is to work with selenium. I keep vitamin E as a powder mixed in with the free choice loose minerals, so do not add any more to the drench. While selenium is also added to the free choice minerals, I still like to add an additional healthy pinch of it to each dose of the drench as added insurance. I use the organic version, the selenium yeast that is sold under the brand name of SelPlex, which is very difficult to give too much of and thus cause toxicity. I do not use the inorganic form in this way because of the risk of toxicity.
Some other nice little vitamin boosts in the Red Cell/ Magic Cell are Vitamins A, D3, B12, and thiamine. Vitamin A is the first to be lost in hay, so this is a great boost in the spring. D3 helps to synthesize calcium. B12 supports a healthy rumen bug population. Thiamine is important for proper neurological function; a lack of it leads to polio. There are other components in these supplements, but these are the most notable.
Now to the drench itself.
This is my recipe:
10-15 mL Magic Cell lambs
20-30 mL Magic Cell adults
30 mL Magic Cell
1 tsp. herbal wormer mix
1 tsp. mugwort (non-pregnant sheep only)
1 tsp. black walnut
15 mL apple cider vinegar
Makes 50 mL per adult sheep.
15 mL Magic Cell
1 tsp. herbal wormer mix
1 tsp. mugwort
1 tsp. black walnut
20 mL apple cider vinegar
Makes 40 mL per Lamb.
How Often it’s Given: I give this once per month during the summer months as a preventative to keep barberpole worms in check, as well as give a nutrition boost.
The amounts of Magic Cell or Red Cell are based on the amounts that have been successful for a number of other farmers. This drench is specifically modeled after the Ingleside Red Cell drench, though the only things that are common between the two are the amount of Magic Cell/ Red Cell and the addition of apple cider vinegar. Here is the link to the original article by Nancy Chase. She later revised in a forum the amount that she gives to each sheep, making them in line with what I have listed in my recipe above. That is why my amounts differ from what is on her website. Other shepherds have used this method successfully, and so far no toxicity, though the methods are obviously rather unscientific; it’s a lot of trial and error. Some people, Nancy Chase included, will also just give the Red Cell or Magic Cell straight.
Apple Cider Vinegar It should also be noted that there is apple cider vinegar in the drench. There are many good properties to apple cider vinegar. It contains potassium and magnesium. It has been shown to help prevent grass tetany, aka hypomagnesia. A New Zealand shepherd discovered, and an American shepherd confirmed in her own flock, that apple cider vinegar also battles anemia. The article, written by Laurie Ball-Gisch, is quite an excellent read. I have linked to it here, or else have posted the bibliographic info below if one would rather find it. This article recommends 20 mL per month of apple cider vinegar to each sheep during the summer. I have decreased this to 15 mL for adults, because my drencher is only 50 mL, and I didn’t figure it worthwhile to drench a second time for 5 mL. I may reconsider this in the future, but it is how I am doing things right now.
In learning from some of the more experienced shepherds on the ISBONA Yahoo group, a forum for members of ISBONA, how apple cider vinegar (acv) works is that if helps to buffer the immune system as an alkalyzing agent, thus making it work more efficiently. This means that minerals and nutrients are more readily processed and absorbed by the body. Some shepherds on this same forum have also reported lower parasite levels in their sheep since they began adding acv to the water. (This was done at a rate of 1 cup per five gallons, if the reader is interested to know.)
Herbs I also like to add some herbs to the drench, as an added nutrition boost and as an extra punch at the worms.
That teaspoon of herb mix that I add might vary with time and tweaking, and is by no means exact science. It’s just what’s been working for me, and it is based upon studies that I’ve come across that have shown some effect in these herbs on various worm species. (Which are summarized below.)
2 parts garlic powder
1 part fennel seed powder
2 parts pumpkin seed powder, Curcubita pepo
1 part turmeric, ground
1 part ginger root, ground
1 part cloves, ground
On top of this, I add a teaspoon each of mugwort and black walnut powder to my drench. I keep these separate for several reasons. One is that the evidence seems to suggest these are some of the more potent and effective of the herbs, especially on Haemonchus contortus. I want to make sure each sheep gets a good dose of each herb. Second is that there is some evidence of mild toxicity in mugwort, and it may cause complications in pregnant sheep in too high of doses. Thus I leave it out when I give it to the pregnant ewes, just to be on the safe side.
The following are my notes on the various herbs I researched, with supporting references:
**White Wormwood, Artemisia herba-alba(Powdered Shoots): Prevented caprine H. contortus infection when given as shoots, 2, 10, or 30g. It suppressed egg production. (Fougere and Wynn) 10-30 g. per animal, in a trial with goats, was successful against H. contortus. (Rahmann and Seip) 10-30 g. per animal in a trial with goats resulted in an absence of eggs in the feces, as well as absence of adults in the abomasum upon necropsy. 4 of the 6 goats had total reduction; the other two still retained a few H. contortus, but were otherwise normal. (Idris et al., 1982)
Notes: This shows a lot of promise as a treatment.
Black Walnut, Hull, Juglans nigra (Powdered): Expels tapeworms (Kenney, 2013) Been shown to be effectual in expelling worms, especially tapeworms. (Fougere and Wynn) Known to be effective in expelling worms. No known toxicity. (Rahmann and Seip)
Cloves, Syzygium aromaticum (Powdered): This is actually an antibiotic/antiviral agent, which has been shown effective against many types of dental bacteria. They also control nausea and vomiting, cough, diarrhea, relieves pain, causes uterine contractions, and stimulates nerves. Also antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic. (Aneja and Radhika, 2008)
Common Mugwort, Artemisa vulgaris (Powdered): Slightly toxic; not to be used in pregnant animals. Efficacy not confirmed. (Rahmann and Seip)
-Common Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium (Powdered): Effective against strongyles, scientifically validated. (Kenney, 2013) Light to medium toxicity; effectiveness barely significant. (Rahmann and Seip) Contains santonin that could prove toxic or cause abortions at doses higher than recommended doses (19g per head). Found in Molly’s Herbal formula, which proved ineffective at recommended doses in a trial with lactating goats on pasture. (Burke et al, 2008) Oral doses of aqueous and ethanolic extracts at 1.0 and 2.0 g/kg body weight showed no ill effects and significantly reduced FEC, including H. contortus. Alchoholic extracts had a greater effect than aqueous. (Ferreira)
**Fumitory, Fumaria parviflora (Ethanol Extract): 100% effectiveness against helminthes. (Kenney, 2013) Reduced FEC 100%, and 78.2% and 88.8% in adult H. contortus on day 13 in lambs. (Fougere and Wynn) 183 mg/kg body weight proved to have same efficacy of common anthelmintic control. No signs of toxicity. (Rahmann and Seip)
Notes: This looks extremely promising as an occasional treatment to take down high worm loads.
Garlic, Allium sativum (Powdered): Stops eggs from hatching in all helminth species tested. (Kenney, 2013) Has some ability to reduce parasites; minced has been shown effective. (Fougere and Wynn) No risk of overdose, though effective powdered dose is unknown. Crushed cloves were given at a rate of 1 tsp. per head per day.( Rahmann and Seip) When given a constant diet containing garlic for two weeks, lambs infected with H. contortus showed a 64.4% decrease in FEC, which increased slightly when the garlic was removed. No clinical signs of infection were observed, even compared to the control group; the conclusion was they could tolerate a higher worm load with good nutrition. (Strickland et al., 2008)
Notes: This looks most useful as a part of a regular mixed herb program. (weekly or mixed in minerals.)
*Ginger, Zingiber officianale (Rhizome, Powdered): Reduces FEC; shown to be about 25% effective at rate of 1-3 g/kg. (Iqbal, et al, 2006) Also shown to kill H. contortus. (Kenney, 2013) Useful to treat nausea and vomiting. (Fougere and Wynn)
Notes: Looks to be useful as a weekly wormer or else mixed in minerals.
*Pumpkin, Cucurbita pepo or spp. (Powdered): Kills mixed helminths. (Kenney, 2013) 60 g. per sheep administered in oil; 3 doses total (pepo specified). Considered safe. Scientifically validated through reliable sources. (Rahmann and Seip) When fed to lambs as a part of their diet for two weeks, it reduced the FEC by 65.5%. The worm was H. contortus, artificially infected into the lambs. The levels increased back to original once the pumpkin kernels were removed. However, sheep were not clinically affected, and the conclusion was drawn that they could maintain a higher worm load if healthy.( Strickland et al., 2008)
Notes: This could be mixed in a regular mix, but may be more useful to treat infestations alongside Fumitory. After further research, this one is best fed constantly; it’s safe, and worm levels increased without its presence.
*Southern Wormwood, Artemisia abrotanum (Powdered): Shown effective with no toxicity at a rate of 1 Tbsp. per head twice daily for several days. Reliable. (Fougere and Wynn))
Notes: Another herb that looks like it would be useful as an occasional one to treat heavy worm loads, alongside pumpkin and fumitory.
Thyme, Thymus: Prevents coccidia; traditional remedy. (Kenney, 2013)
Turmeric: Prevents coccidia, antiviral
Aneja, K.R., Radhika, J. “Antimicrobial Activity of Syzygium aromaticum and its bud oil against dental cares causing microorganisms.” Aug. 1, 2010. Department of Microbiology, Kurukshetra University, Haryana, India.
Ball-Gisch, Laurie. “A Cider Vinegar Miracle Cure.” Sheep! magazine, Volume 24 Number 1
January/February, 2003. Pp. 25.
Burke, J.M., Wells, A., Casey, P., and Kaplan, R.M. “Herbal dewormer fails to control gastrointestinal nematodes in goats.” 2008, Oct. 15. Veterinary Parasitology 160 (2009). Pp. 168-170.
Ferreira, J.F.S. “Artemisia species in small ruminant production: their potential antioxidant and anthelmintic effects.” Research Horticulturist, USDA, ARS, Appalachian Farming Systems Research, Beaver, WV. Pp. 53-70.
Fougere, B. and Wynn, S. Veterinary Herbal Medicine. Pp. 328.
Idris, U.E., Adam, S.E., Tartour, G. “The anthelmintic efficacy of Artemisia herba-alba against Haemonchus contortus infection in goats.” 1982. National Institute of Animal Health Q, Fall; 22(3). Pp. 138-143.
Iqbal, Z., Lateef, M., Akhtar, M. S., Ghayur, M. N., Gilani, A. H. “In vivo anthelmintic activity of ginger against gastrointestinal nematodes of sheep.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 106 (2006) Pp. 285-287.
Kenney, Alethea. “Herbs as Anthelmintics.” http://www.reedbird.com/ref/herbs-as-anthelmintics.pdf Viewed 01.21.2013.
Rahmann, G. and Seip, H. “Alternative strategies to prevent and control endoparasite diseases in organic sheep and goat farming systems.” Pp. 74-80. Institut für ökologischen Landbau der FAL, Trenthorst 32, 23847 Westerau, email@example.com.
Strickland, V.J., Krebs, G.L., and Potts, W. “Pumpkin kernel and garlic as alternative treatments for the control of Haemonchus contortus in sheep.” Oct. 23, 2008. Animal Production Science 49(2). Pp. 139-144.