Having implemented symbiotic husbandry methods, I discovered how feeding real salt and having healthy soil is a little known solution for eliminating flies in stables, barns and paddocks.
Anyone raising animals that are spend some time in barns or stables or some shelter; will eventually deal with the daily contribution of manure, that can quickly become overwhelming to maintain if left neglected. Especially when considering 5, 10, 15, 20 goats? Winter provides a respite from the insects and flies that typically find their goat berries so delightful. Spring however, is not so indulging, as it ushers the prompt arrival of flies. Their almost deafening buzz, is not a welcoming sound, but a bemoaning reminder there will be hundreds of them within weeks.
SYMBIOSIS – IS A BEAUTIFUL THING
My endeavor of a natural, holistic, simple homestead for my family and animals, is the source of inspiration for much of the narratives I write on practical lessons from my pursuit of raising goats in nature and with nature. In more ways than one, the catalyst to this discovery came from reading my Bible. Don’t worry, I won’t be getting preachy or pass an offering plate. But I won’t apologize for giving credit to where credit is due. The Bible is replete with verses related to cultivation, husbandry and agriculture. One just has to stop and take notice. So how did the Bible help me keep better barns? Read on.
Pastoralism is the ancient practice of herd management rooted in proper knowledge of animal physiology and its environmental needs. Best explained, as husbandry that is essentially practiced holistically, in nature and with nature, more perfectly described as symbiotic husbandry.
DEFINITION OF symbiosis = involving interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, denoting a mutually beneficial relationship between different species or groups.
Conventional farming, with its brother industrial agricultural, have proven that ecologically harmful practices, expensive equipment, costly feeds and supplements will never replace the already proven wisdom and simplicity best suited for healthy herd management. I would venture to say that the modern paradigm of herd management and cultivation is geared more out of nature and without nature, wouldn’t you say?
Ruminants thrive in a very specific habitat. Not all ruminants need or prefer the same habitat. Goats as you may already know, do best in arid climate, are browsers/foragers, and minimal grazers. Their rumen produces enzymes that enable them to consume the types of plants that cows and sheep won’t eat, and horses will stick their noses up at. Since ancient times, it is common knowledge ruminants thrive on a diet of forage and fodder. In spite of this well disseminated piece of info, one must beg this question. Why then does grain remain a predominant source of feed for goats and other ruminants, when it should constitute a minor part or be non-existent in their diet? In my world this venture involved the raising of Nubian goats in a manner that best represents pastoral symbiotic goat herding as the foundation for my herd management.
POOP = FLIES, RIGHT?
Flies are one of those things that can make having animals, not so fun. How often have you scrambled for solutions and spent money on all sorts of supplements and additives for top dressing the soiled hay, just to keep the nastiness at bay? The diatomaceous earth, baking soda, essential oil sprays, coat spritzes, etc? Everywhere I looked and read, it was the same thing mentioned. I used all of these, and none proved effective in my neck of the woods. Many herders don’t bother with the flies. Instead relent, accepting it as part of the natural course of keeping herds. But it bugged me so too much to ignore. PUN INTENDED.
You may already know how some flies will nibble on ears, and tender parts of the face. Others like laying eggs in bites, and can infect an already existing wound, cut or scrape. If you have dairy goats like I do, you already know that an open milk room door soon invites the flies in. A pesky nuisance that has, on more than one occasion caused my does to kick up their hooves for relief, but instead they mistakenly kicked the milk bucket over. How often have you had both hands engaged on teats, and a fly lands right on your face?
AN UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY
It was during my regular Bible reading time that I came across this Scripture, from the book of Isaiah 30:24; one of my favorite books, and it reads:
“Also the oxen and the donkey which work the ground will eat salted fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork.”
This prompted some intensive research and led to some amazing discoveries. I came across the practice of fodder being a primary source of food for ruminants, especially in European farms. Some have the erroneous idea that fodder just means food, qualifying hay or grain as fodder. That is not the case.
Fodder and forage are the ideal source of food for ruminants. Fodder is traditionally, fresh green food source. I wrote about my adventures in growing fodder for my goats in this post. You can find it here.
As part of the holistic care of my own body, I consume about 6 -12 capsules of Himalayan sea salt daily. I understand that for animals there are commercially prepared salt licks for ease of use. I’ve read all the pros and cons of salt licks as well. Some have additives, other brands do not. I also have knowledge of the naturally derived essential trace minerals provided by REAL salt. REAL salt is not a brand, just a defining term. Real salt is not found in Morton’s Iodized Salt by the way. If that were real salt it wouldn’t need to have iodine added. Right? As real salt is already iodine rich. So what then is iodized salt? I’ll let you figure that one out. But I will tell you this, it’s in a lot of commercial salt lick products and even some name brand grain salt products. Let’s move on.
Remember my opening statement. Simplicity, natural and practical symbiotic herd management has been my goal. So I opted NOT to buy salt licks for several reasons.
A FODDER FACTORY
- I wanted each of the goats to have an opportunity to consume as much salt as they needed.
- One salt lick available in each paddock means only one goat will dominate access to the lick. We all know how territorial they can be, especially when excluding those down in rank. If I move the herd out of the range of the paddocks where the licks would be, then those that could not get their licking time in, would be without salt.
- I did not want to spend $$ getting multiple licks, and having to find places where they can be accessed easily, and frequently plus not get wet. Furthermore, have to position the licks so the kids can reach them as well.
- I wanted to monitor who is consuming the salt, and who is not.
- Why should I spend more money on salt licks, when I have lots of loose, real salt on hand?
Instead I relied on my personal salt storage for feeding my herd from my supply of loose Himalayan sea salt. I started with both the morning and evening rations. Placing the salt off to the side in their individual feeder bowl. I began by serving one teaspoon of salt for each goat, which I later increased to a tablespoon for each. I did not mix it in with the feed or onto any fodder, so that I could observe how much each goat was eating from the small pile I placed off to the edge, but inside their bowl.
Right from the onset both the bucks and does consumed the salt completely, wiping their feeders clean. I continued for a week, and noticed some would taper off in their consumption, as others ate all of it. But each always took something. I experimented by placing the free choice loose salt next to their free choice baking soda feeder as well. The salt side of the feeder was always licked cleaned.
Finally, after a week, upon entering the barn first thing in the morning, it suddenly dawned on me. I don’t hear annoying flies whisking by my face or their buzzing in the distance. I looked at the piles of goat berries in all the stalls, in both barns, in the yard, in the paddocks. Everywhere their droppings were, there were NO flies to be found!!! Watch the results in the video linked below.
But how, and why did this happen? Read on ….
Discover how feeding your goats real salt and having healthy soil is a little known solution for eliminating flies in stables, barns and paddocks. This video is part of an ongoing blog series by GOAT YOUR LAND titled: PASTORALISM: The Practice of Symbiotic Goat Husbandry.
WHERE DID ALL THE FLIES GO?
Good soil fertility requires those “helping” insects and bugs, that breakdown the feces and move it into the soil. I witnessed this process first hand at my friend Chris Hoeme’s ranch. Having spent 2 hours talking, walking, and listening to Chris describe the results of healthy soil management manifested in his pasture raised cattle. (This is not fescue pasture his cows graze on, but on pastures covered in Missouri native plants and grasses.) Chris spent 3 years transitioning his soil from conventional methods to restoring the pastures.
I walked in 2 foot tall prairie pastures and discovered I had no ticks, no chigger bites. When I stopped to inspect the cow patties left by his herd, the patties were covered in small holes. The holes where the cow patties had been bored into, was done by helpful insects and bugs pulling the manure into the soil. These cow patties had NO FLIES on them!
Is this something unusual, a freak of nature? Absolutely not. In fact, it is a natural occurring process of symbiotic herd management and soil fertility. It demonstrates the principle that what we feed can positively or negatively impact the soil. What was the one thing I had done differently that made such a significant change to the fly population on our land, paddocks and barns? I simply added the loose, pure Himalayan sea salt to their daily rations. A catalyst for the reduction in the negative fly population. The salting is now part of the usual steps I take to keep the fly population at bay. Other steps I take are: not leaving uneaten feed in feeders, regularly emptying trash receptacles, removing soiled items that have residues of blood (after kidding), scrap food, oils, etc. Salt, Fodder and Cleanliness = NO More Flies!
Thank You Yah for Your wisdom of fodder and salt. Isaiah 30:24