Old wive’s tale or not, pumpkin seeds may be natural dewormer
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
TOWNSEND, Del. — Resistance to dewormers is an issue most goat farmers deal with, especially those who pasture their herds.
A recent Delaware State University study found resistance to different commercial dewormers in Mid-Atlantic states ranging from 27 to 97 percent.
To help combat the high levels, Dahlia Jackson-O’Brien, DSU Extension researcher, studied the efficacy on using pumpkin seeds as a natural dewormer.
Feeding pumpkin seeds to control parasites is something of an old wive’s tale among many farmers, and Jackson-O’Brien wanted to see how effective it was in reducing parasites in goats.
The seeds of many vine crops, but pumpkins in particular, contain cucurbitacin, a compound used to expel tapeworms and roundworms in livestock for years.
The seeds are also rich in protein, which can help animals do better with parasites, she said.
“I have some producers who swear by it,” she told a small group gathered at Norman and Gwendolyn Pierce’s farm to hear her research results.
Jackson-O’Brien and her research team conducted five separate experiments from 2007 to 2011 at the Hickory Hill research farm, testing different methods of using the seeds in parasite control.
The most effective method — making a drench from ground-up seeds — reduced fecal egg counts of parasites by 11 percent while the control group saw a 56-percent increase in fecal egg counts.
“That’s indicating at least the pumpkin seeds are not increasing egg counts,” Jackson-O’Brien said.
A big downside of the experiment was making the drench, a six-hour process to make one batch of three doses.
Subsequent experiments used pumpkin seed oil as the base for the drench and mixing ground-up seeds into the animals’ feed on different age groups of meat goats and sheep.
Effectiveness varied in these experiments, none with enough statistical significance for Jackson-O’Brien to endorse.
Jackson-O’Brien also enlisted two farmers to do on-farm research trials — the Pierces with meat goats and Ralph Tarr with Katahdin lambs to offer a group of animals pumpkins split in half each morning and also keep a control group.
Norman Pierce told the group gathered at his farm it took some of his goats a few days to start eating the pumpkins but, “by day five, most were eating seeds and by the last day, they ate everything.”
Neither of the on-farm studies showed significant effectiveness in parasite control through measuring fecal egg counts.
Jackson-O’Brien said she couldn’t draw specific conclusions from the studies about whether or not to feed pumpkin seeds without more monitoring.
However, she said it could be used along with other management techniques to keep parasite levels low.
She said to consider deworming as a factor when selecting animals for breeding, use the FAMACHA scoring system to determine when animals need dewormed and limit overuse and to combine and alternate commercial dewormers to keep resistance in check.