Worming Livestock In The Old Days

Have you ever wondered how they did something back in the old days? You know, back when there wasn’t a store to go to for your every need. I’ve often wondered how farmers did lots of things without modern conveniences. In particular, I’ve wondered how they took care of the health of their livestock back in the pioneer days.

Through this homesteading adventure of ours, I’ve learned that most livestock need to be wormed, or they’ll die. But how exactly did pioneers de-worm their animals without the manufactured drugs we have nowadays?

Well, after asking around I’ve found the answer. Lye. I know it sounds crazy, but I have talked to people who are still using lye to worm their livestock to this day.

In particular I’ve been told that a tablespoon of lye in a 5 gallon bucket of slop is enough to worm a full grown pig. Just make sure to supply plenty of water. I asked if the pig seems to be in pain or anything from the lye, and the answer has always been “no”. Just don’t overdo it, or it could cost you the life of your animal.

I thought this was pretty interesting.

Have you ever heard of using lye like this? Do any of you know of any other natural ways to worm livestock? I’ve heard mixed reviews about DE (Diatomaceous Earth). I guess the problem with DE is that you’d still have to buy it. I’m interested in a worming product that I can create myself. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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21 thoughts on “Worming Livestock In The Old Days”

  1. What kind of lye was used for deworming of pigs in the old days? Was it dry substance made from wood ash or was it slaked/unslaked lime (calcium hydroxide) or even sodium hydroxide (caustic soda)? They are all lyes. Please let me know. Thanks My email is [email protected]

  2. When I worm the kids (parasite cleanse) I use black walnut, chives, and Wormwood. I can get a bottle that mixes all 3 into a tablet. In fact, I did this 6 years ago and was pregnant with Joel the very next month! I’ve actually gotten pregnant each time I do even just a tiny amount (1 tablet once a day instead of 2 tablets 3 times a day). LOL But of the 4 pregnancies, I only got Joel and LaRue.

  3. I wouldn’t overlook the differences between different kinds of animals and the different kinds of parasites that affect them. Barber pole worms, for instance, which are the biggest problem in goats don’t affect cattle or poultry or hogs. We rotate our goats with the life cycle of the barber pole worm in mind so that we can avoid using dewormers. Letting goats eat higher up off the ground (more tall weeds and low branches instead of grass) also minimizes barber pole worm problems. Certainly the more land you can let them forage on the better, because they’ll be eating less where they previously pooped, but even with limited space I’d rotate them. If I ran out of rotations, I’d keep them confined with no forage at all rather than let them continue to graze the same ground too long. You might be able to prolong rotations in very dry or very cold weather, but otherwise I try to rotate my goats at least every 2 months (if they’re spread out with 1/2 acre or more per goat) and as often as every 2 weeks (if they’re crowded to to 1/8 acre or less per goat.) Once I leave a rotation I try not to return for at least 6 months, and 12 months would be even better. You might actually get more out of your forage this way, too, because the rest periods could allow the plants to really grow instead of being continually beaten back and never having a chance to strengthen their root systems.

    As for hogs, I don’t have any personal experience with them, but I know hogs pre-pharmaceutical companies were very commonly kept in pens up off the ground. That’s what it looks like in your blog photo. That would keep them from rooting and eating in the same ground that they pooped in, which I assume is primarily where hogs pick up worms. If I didn’t have good/extensive rotations for the hogs, I think I might prefer to keep them from foraging/rooting at all.

    As for chickens, I just wouldn’t expect much trouble from a free range flock. We haven’t given our chickens any medications in our 7 years of keeping them, and we’ve never had any noticeable problems.

  4. Merry Patriot,

    I know, I thought about that too. It seems like it would be way too harsh for chickens. Myself, I wouldn’t try it.

  5. We do Black Walnut. And there’s a spot where the Black Walnuts fall where there’s standing water almost all Summer. It gets BLACK! All the animals drink out of it lol. I figure they’re wormed.

  6. I wonder about “how they did that back in the day” constantly! LOL.

    Though I have no animals yet (hope to have chickens soon), I found your post very thought-provoking and decided to do a little research myself. So far, I found this and it’s VERY interesting:

  7. I’ve heard of tobacco being used to worm chickens and discourage mites/fleas. From what I understand, you can simply throw a package of loose tobacco (or chewing tobacco) into a coop and let the chickens scratch in it. They’ll eat a bit of it, which kills any intestinal parasites, and fleas/mites HATE the smell/oils in tobacco so they stay away from the coop or die LOL. I don’t know if it’s true or just an old wive’s tale…

      • My dad used tobacco to worm my horses !!! He said it would kill worms in about everything even people. He said when they was kids his mom would boil pennies and make the kids drink the water.

  8. Amazing information…I am always wondering how they did things in the old days. Like keeping fruit trees from getting bugs and such. Why do we need poison? There has to be a natural way…you figure nature has been around a LOT longer than pesticides! Thank you to all who shared about the pumpkin seeds…great info!

  9. We had a friend in another state who had a close friend. She raised goats. The vet was always trying to get information from her because her goats had so few worms, sometimes none. She kept telling him it was pumpkin seeds. He didn’t believe her. She would grow a big pumpkin patch and throw the pumpkins into their pasture so that they broke open. The goats would eat the pumpkin and the seeds. She would feed them a little each week until the pumpkins were gone. We have done that with our goats (when we had them), sheep and cows.

  10. We found the best thing to worm chickens with is fresh pumpkins. We simply cut them up and give sections to the chickens, seeds and all. We found an article in a “Backyard Poultry” magazine last year and we decided to give it to all of our livestock. I am going to research some more to see if canned pumpkin would have the same effect..I’ll let you know. 🙂

    I have given our sheep, goats and pigs Ivomec in the past. We use a syringe and put it in fresh strawberries. The small pocket in the strawberry holds the medicine well.


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