There are many skeptics out there who question the sincerity of our claims that our horses are the only organically raised thoroughbreds in Africa, possibly in the world, and the one question they seem to find quite irresistible, is how we handle issues such as de-worming, medication etc.
In a nutshell, we need to remember that we are practical people, and when it comes to life and death, we wont compromise life for a principal. In essence, this means that if the natural remedy doesn’t work, we will always look for a suitable alternative, usually in the realm of interventionist medicine or surgery. Beyond that, we long ago went away from routine deworming with the commercial products all of us know, and we introduced a regimen that involved applications only when they were necessary. That was the beginning.
Since then, in order to maintain the integrity of what we were trying to do, and to ensure that it was compatible with the rest of our organic farming philosophies, we sought ways of finding natural remedies in every sphere.
In the de-worming realm, we discovered that worms, blackjacks and khaki weed are uncomfortable bed-fellows, and by having these as part of a pastoral mix, we would inhibit the presence of parasites in the horse’s system. Of course, these plants are commonly regarded as weeds, and they tend to make a pasture look a little unkempt, so we don’t encourage their growth within the pasture itself, but rather along the fence lines and hedges, and on the contours within the lands. There was a time when we considered flattening the contours altogether, but they now serve as lungs for the growth of these plants (in all the books on natural remedies, they are regarded as herbs, so I guess it depends on your perspective in life!), and that’s the first of our remedies.
We have seen literature quite recently where some farmers abroad actually grow blackjack and khaki weed especially for this purpose in the world of organic beef, and they cut it and bale it when its still quite young, and it is at the height of its efficacy. It needs incidentally, to be grazed before its gets to seed, otherwise it loses its impact.
The second and slightly more drastic remedy (in terms of effect, we mean, rather than anything else) is diatomaceous earth, closely akin to the variety used in old fashioned swimming pool filters. This is nothing more or less than decomposed matter found underground in close-to-powder form (in a way something like coal, but in a completely different form and colour). Microscopically, as we understand it, (because we haven’t seen it under the microscope) diatomaceous earth has a number of razor-like properties, which rub against the outer skin of the worms, severing it and causing it to die off. The worm is then passed out of the system and unlike the medicinal worm remedies, short of developing a thicker skin (which hasn’t yet been observed), the worm has been unable to develop a resistance to this form of de-worming.
We all know that the immune levels of parasites against dewormers have reached the stage where they are becoming less and less effective, and according to the research figures we are seeing at present, it would seem that horsemen across the world (not only in South Africa) are experiencing the same phenomenal growth in resistance to dewormers.
Our feeds division, Vuma, who carry some of the best supplements and other allied products in the racing and leisure horse world, are in the process of developing a commercialized form of this product for distribution on the local market. One of the reasons they have not popularized it as yet is the need to source a completely pure form, as there can be problems with toxins and impurities if it is mined randomly. Let’s hope that their efforts become viable, because this could be important to all of us.