Lice are very common and easily managed in a goat herd. The presence of lice is nothing to be upset about, though in this article I will tell you how I avoid them altogether.
Pat Coleby of Natural Goat Care states that lice are a symptom of sulfur deficiency. While I think that’s probably true in a majority of cases, it doesn’t seem to be universally true. What does seem to be universally true is that dusting topically with sulfur powder will still resolve all cases of lice. Therefore, dusting with sulfur is my preferred method, but I want to detail other natural options for you to choose from.
Sulfur Internally and Externally
The method I began using after reading Pat’s book is to front load MSM, which is a purified feed grade sulfur product, alongside my goats’ loose minerals in lice season from Nov-Feb each year. Never, ever force supplement sulfur because it antagonizes other minerals and can cause health issues if overdosed. By putting it out before lice are an issue, the goats could self correct any sulfur deficiencies and ward off lice before they start. This worked excellently for me for several years.
In an active case, where goats may not have had access to sulfur or they didn’t consume it, organic yellow sulfur powder is highly effective in my experience and the experience of many, many folks who have tried it. I like to use a spice shaker and shake-shake-shake against the hair grain from the tail of the goat up to the poll (top of the head), avoiding the face and ears and dusting in a ventilated area. This can be done three days apart for up to three applications, but I found that I usually only needed one or two applications. After the first year of trying this method, we never needed to dust topically again because they consumed the MSM powder and didn’t have issues with lice.
Updates: I no longer use MSM because they consume yellow sulfur powder in their mineral buffet so MSM is redundant and unnecessary. If you purchase yellow sulfur powder, you can feed that instead, but if you notice they are not consuming it over time, you may want to try a small amount of MSM to see if they prefer that type of sulfur instead.
Essential Oils for Lice Control
Tea tree, lavender and lemongrass essential oils are all helpful for combating external parasites. Using a 1%-2% dilution rate in the carrier oil of your choice, you can place drops along the topline and poll and also at the base of each hoof. For 10ml of carrier oil (I use olive or fractionated coconut oil most often), add 2-4 drops of essential oils. You can experiment with a combination of all three pick two to mix and match. A dropper bottle works best for applying quickly to each area and, like sulfur, can be applied every 3 days for 3 applications.
I have not used diatomaceous earth myself, but have heard frequently that it is effective against lice. I keep meaning to experiment with a combination of DE, sulfur and essential oils, but since we no longer deal with lice, I can only suggest it as something I think would work well and smell good, too!
I’d like to tell you that there are things you can do to prevent your goats from getting lice, like having ultra clean bedding or applying something before laying down bedding or any number of other things folks recommend, but the truth is I am very lackadaisical about my own goat husbandry and even without doing anything, we no longer get lice. The reason for that is switching to mineral buffet for minerals. Mineral balance is absolutely key to averting most health issues. If that’s not an option for you for any reason, the first method of sulfur worked very well for me while my goats were using blended minerals.
Continue the discussion in the lice and mites forum where you can share your experiences and thoughts.
Continue the discussion in the Parasite forum.