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Sepp Holzer says "plant lots of poisonous plants"

Todd Hoff

Joined: Mar 14, 2011
Posts: 63
This podcast--Episode #122: Inadvertently Organic ( Agroinnovations has a great discussion on holistic pasture land management by Walt Davis. He talks about how using heavy pasture rotation he was able stop using all the chemicals that were needed to overcome the consequences of underrotation.

Some of my notes...Incredibly insighful interview with a rancher who was raised to be a factory farmer and through his own experiences became a hollistic rancher. Awesome concrete examples of how traditional big factory farm isn't profitable and can be made profitable using holistic management practices. Walt Davis tells his story of the journey from factory farmer to radical and profitable farmer. Can't make money using large expensive inputs. Put more up in capital than justified by the profit. He wasn't making money using traditional farm management techniques. Got an idea in the early 1970s, where ever using money, use less of it. No one thing that made the difference. Lots of little things but every change impacts everything. Modern farming is about buying large inputs. Can't control markets, or politics, but what we can control is how much we spend. In traditional farming bigger is always better. People get caught up in measuring the cow, not the profit. The idea is to convert something of lower value to higher value. The cow is just a tool. Traditionally what they are told to want is the biggest fattest cow in the county. Not hard to do. Just takes time and money. The difficulty is doing it and staying profitable. Modern agriculture is only 60 years old. Nitrogen fertilizers appeared in 1951 as the factories for WWII needed to put to another use, so factory farming was invented and ruled. That was how farmers were taught to farm. Bedrock of modern agriculture is nitrogen fertilizer. Degraded our soil, food chain, and financial and mental health of our producers. Stress factor is high so he end up with ulcers. Financial factors worse. The better job you did with complying with the prevailing wisdom the more money you lost. The key was better grazing management. Used to have 4-5 paddocks, always behind when ready to graze. Instead, subdivided. On the if it costs money don't do it strategy, they used to spray for all kinds of bugs. Sprayed every 28 days for some horn fly problem. Stressing animals incredibly. They don't do that anymore. Instead, Has 25 paddocks per herd. Leaving manure behind leaving flies behind. Moved herds everyday. Horse flies disappeared because sand wasps reappeared because they didn't spray. When they appeared in numbers the horse flies disappeared. Heal flies. Spiders reappeared and ate them. This is the sort of thing they started to see and then they started to look for it. Quit doing things that don't make ecological or financial sense. Use to worm every year, now don't and the cows are healthier every year. We tend to take technology as a given. Animals are supposed to have a certain parasites. Otherwise they don't have any antibody production. Current practices seem to encourage parasitism. Watering all at one place. Animals can't fight concentration like that. Spread the animals. Keep them on clean ground most of the time and then animals will do naturally what we tried to do with chemicals. Heavy parasite concentration, heavy disease concentration because of the concentration of the animals. Observation. See the cattle. Don't just look at them. Become familiar with the animal. Hair shiny? Eyes bright? Poor or fat for the season? Animals that are healthy exude health. They feel good. Animals in ill health don't. They don't look good. Look at the poop to see if the animals are gaining or not gaining weight. Poop shows what they at 24-36 hours before. If the manure is stacked up then the fiber content is too high and they aren't gaining. If it's flat then there's not enough fiber and nutrients. No hard and fast set of rules. The eye of the master fattens the ox. A lot of us have turned into windshield ranchers. If we drive through the property and we see grass then we have grass, if we see cattle we have cattle. We look at we don't see what's happening on the operation. You can't see what's happening from a pickup. You can walking or from horseback. You have to see if the ground covered? What is the condition of the forage plants that are there? How many are overgrazed or under utilized? You got to see the individual elements that make up the pasture. It comes back to observation. Being able to see. Go on a pasture work. Don't be afraid to sau I don't know, show me. Look at your country, understand what you got, and organize around the facts so you can make sense of it."

Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
I've seen goats devour the American wormwood that grows wild out here in CA. Have to be conscious of whom is eating it and when if they're in the milking stream, as it badly taints the flavor of the milk; for this reason I think it more sensible to offer it seasonally rather than allow free access. Goats run on properly maintained pasture and supplemented with the correct "ad-libs" (e.g., kelp, vinegar, mineral salts) aren't at high risk of contracting worms.

Joined: Aug 24, 2009
Posts: 106
the plants growing on his farm are different than what grows here.  I tried getting Aconitum started, that is one plant that thrives on his place, but forget it. I have to pamper it in a flower bed and nurse it along. Just does not like it here. But I grew tobacco and  my little  cows ate it down to the nub.  I have no proof for this, but it seems all winter my goats have done great, no worming needed,  and they ate lots of cedar and pine.  They will not touch that in summer.  I am growing wormwood, but inside the fenced area where they can not get to it. I understand it can induce miscarriage.  I would like to grow some tobacco again.  The goats love to eat the poke berries.  They have purple smeared faces in season. I figure they know what they are doing, it has not harmed them so far.  Pumpkin seeds are a vermifuge, so are raw carrots.

Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
  this is a VERY interesting thread.... i didnt read every post though. I forget all the details but a guy who was curing cancer in texas i believe learned to do so after his horse was diagnosed with cancer and he watched the horse change its diet a bit, and was later cured.  Its another topic but the guy was brought up on charges because well in the land of the free you cant mess with big money, and only chemo is the official cure. the guy works down in mexico now i believe.....

  anyway... i would think we can take it a step beyond simply planting poisonous plants in general, and selectively do this. the uses of many plants are known so theres no reason to keep it so general.

    this same idea works for more then just healing animals as well. i find it helps immensely in regards to insects as well. (surely not a new concept here, im just saying  ) and honestly I havent selectively planted much of these things yet, only perpetuated a diverse amount of wild plants that were also easy to pull for my compost piles. it used to be common to have a wild area next to the fields.
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6895
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
I have seen suggestions that DE can be used for worming, but I have never seen anything that can back that up.  According to most information, DE is not effective when wet or damp.  How is it going to get through a digestive system without getting wet?

I consider DE to be a hazard in a poultry environment (except possibly as an additive to water, and I see no benefit of that).
Mekka Pakanohida

Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
paul wheaton wrote:
Sounds crazy at first, but after he explains it, it makes good sense.

It sounds as if he has his own little laboratory.  At least he has a microscope and a centrifuge.   He tests his animals for parasites.  And it sounds as if he has done some very careful observations on this path.

The important thing is:  he uses no wormers on his animals.  While there are many factors for this, one of them is that he keep a rich diversity of plants including poisonous plants.  When animals need something, they are driven by instinct to get a particular flavor of plant that will make them feel better. 

Of course, if you pen an animal up and feed it nothing but "purina animal chow" then you take on the responsibility for the animal's health.

My problem is that I don't want a certain large mammal on my property, and some of the more poison laced plants for the Pacific NW like say "evil's Club" kinda attracts bears, as does Skunk Cabbage, the latter being survival food, but also a huge laxative for bears in spring, and they relish it.

Need to be careful in some cases.
Melba Corbett

Joined: Apr 23, 2011
Posts: 164
Location: North Carolina
Jami McBride wrote:
sepp holzer says "plant lots of poisonous plants"

And I would add Herbs.... for animal self medication. 

I love the book - Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable.  Juliette recommends kelp or seaweed meal for prevention of worms and fluke in goats and sheep, and to stay away from 'other' salts.  She believes, as Sepp does, that animals will find and administer most of what they need if it is available.  I do not remember off hand what she recommends to get rid of a bad worm infestation.


That book is my favorite too!  I think she recommends garlic.  For goats, you can plant it so they can rotationally graze it (the tops), or if milking, just give two cloves at milking time and it does not affect the flavor of the milk.  I have shut up a goat who was not responding to the chemical wormer and fasted it on water only in a small stall with a dirt floor so it had no bedding to eat, gave it two cloves AM and PM for three days.  End the fast after 24 hours because goats can't go long without eating.  Start them on poor, dry hay, just a little the second day and third day and then back onto regular feeding.  My little goat passed tapeworms!  If you fast a goat in milk, they may likely go dry, but if you have a serious parasite problem, you may also save their life.  One dairy herd person I know feeds them chopped garlic in their feed routinely once a day. 

We had two little bucks, weaned early and looked a little thin (probably parasites) and opted to put them out on a pasture with lots of lespedeza and chicory, instead of worming them to see what happened.  Within two weeks they were gaining considerable weight, with no other changes in diet. 

Wild Edible & Medicinal Plant classes, & DVDs
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Jay Plant

Joined: Jun 19, 2011
Posts: 10
Location: NW ontario
Well most plants we plant are poisonous no?  Tomato, peppers, clamatis, figs and elephant ear are all poisonous unless they are cooked, or as in peppers/tomato, we can eat the fruit.

I havnt seen anyone mention WORMWOOD here.  TI was used for a very long time as a dewormer, and is hardy to zone 4.  A nice plant as well, and does inhibit some plant growth in a small area around it (so ive read), but ive seen it planted in proximity to tons of things.
Melba Corbett

Joined: Apr 23, 2011
Posts: 164
Location: North Carolina
canadianplant wrote:
Well most plants we plant are poisonous no?  Tomato, peppers, clamatis, figs and elephant ear are all poisonous unless they are cooked, or as in peppers/tomato, we can eat the fruit.

I havnt seen anyone mention WORMWOOD here.  TI was used for a very long time as a dewormer, and is hardy to zone 4.  A nice plant as well, and does inhibit some plant growth in a small area around it (so ive read), but ive seen it planted in proximity to tons of things.

I have used wormwood, both for myself, chickens and goats.  However, it is a very strong herb and can damage the liver if used too much.  It is excellent used in conjunction with garlic.  The artemesia absinthe is the one normally used.  However, I've seen Sweet Annie (artemesia annua) used in some formulas. 
Shawn Harper

Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 234
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
John Polk wrote:There is a natural product sold for worming pets/livestock, called Verm-X.  They make different formulations for horse, poultry, swine, goats, etc. etc. (since Nov. 2010 they have been certified organic).
They are not cheap, but here is a list of what's in it:

Seven listed ingredients in Verm-X:
Garlic, (Allium Sativum)
Quassia (Simaroubaceae),
Cayenne, (Capsium Minimum)
Slippery Elm (Ulmus Fulva),
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum),
Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris),
Peppermint (Mentha Piperita).

That should be a good starting point.

Thanks for these they will be valuable I have also heard of using raw pumpkin seeds for deworming .

She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches changes.
Suzy Bean

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
Paul and Kelda review chapter 2 of sepp holzer's Permaculture in this podcast.

They talk about allowing animals to self medicate with poisonous plants and mushrooms.
subject: Sepp Holzer says "plant lots of poisonous plants"