Judging from the discussion that's appeared in MOTHER's letters column over the past couple years, it seems that a good many folks have settled on the feeding of diatomaceous earth as a satisfactory method of worming their livestock.
Well, I don't say that this technique won't work ... but it scares me, and I know I certainly would never try this with any animals that I valued. Diatomaceous earth — which consists of the tiny, glasslike, sharpedged skeletons of microscopic sea animals called diatoms — works by entering the parasite's internal system and ripping it to shreds. Who's to say It won't do the same to your animal's digestive tract?
I know of another, safer method of worming livestock ... one that my dad used for years. All it involves is giving the afflicted animal a bit of snuff in its normal ration of grain.
Why snuff? Well, if you were to read the label from a commercial worm medicine, chances are you'd find that the treatment consists mainly of powdered tobacco (probably 80 to 90 percent powdered tobacco, plus some antibiotics and fillers). OK. So why should you pay $1 or $1.50 for a half-ounce tube of doctored-up tobacco ... when you can buy a four-ounce tin of Levi Garrett snuff —which is nothing more than powdered tobacco anyway — for less than a buck? Why indeed!
In my experience, snuff works as well as any worming medicine you can get from a vat ... and It's probably a good deal safer to use than most such medicines. To rid your horse, cow, hog, or other large stock of parasites, here's all you have to do: Mix an ounce or so of snuff with a scoop of feed, give the mixture to your afflicted animal, and keep the beast penned up for most of the day. Within an hour of the feeding, the animal should begin to pass large, seething masses of stomach worms in its feces. (When it does, sterilize the wastes by pouring a little kerosene or used motor oil on them.)
The advantage of worming with snuff is that while the tobacco acts to kill parasites, it's completely harmless to livestock. (in addition, tobacco's cathartic action causes the animal to pass the dead — and dying — worms out of its digestive system quickly ... which is something diatomaceous earth doesn't do.)
The kerosene (or motor oil) you pour on the infected wastes kills any adult worms that the tobacco missed and kills the eggs (something, again, that diatomite won't do), thus lowering the chance of reinfestation.
In case you didn't know it, most farm animals love tobacco. So don't feel bad about feeding them snuff ... or even an occasional unfiltered cigarette. You'll not only make your beasties happy, but you'll keep them worm-free too!
Editors Note: Tobacco contains nicotine sulfate, which kills the worms in livestock. However, if given too much, it could be harmful to the livestock and make them sick. Today, there are more modern dewormers available that are less harmful to livestock and still effective. Always check with your local veterinarian before administering dewormers to livestock.