Diatomite in Animal Feeds

by Dr Hinner Köster - Director: Animate Animal Health

CONTENT
WHAT IS DIATOMITE?
DIATOMITE USE IN LIVESTOCK AND POULTRY PRODUCTION
Parasite and Insect control
Mineralization
Deodorization/Absorption
Grain Protection and Anti-caking Properties
TESTIMONIES AND OFFICIAL RESULTS
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
COMMERCIAL APPLICATION OF DIATOMITE AND USE WITHIN VALUE ADDED PRODUCTS

 

WHAT IS DIATOMITE?

Diatomaceous earth, also known as Diatomite has been recognized as an organic product for animal health and nutrition. Diatomaceous earth is mined all over the world with countries like China and the USA being major suppliers.  In South Africa it is mined from seven different freshwater sources in the Olifantshoek area by Diatoms SA  and now,  through a recent joint venture agreement further researched and developed and marketed by Animate Animal Health. It is a naturally occurring, siliconrich sedimentary rockmade up of fossilized remains of millions of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled plant algae originally deposited millions of years ago in the earth from dried up seas and lakes. Once Diatomaceous earth is mined, it can be milled or processed into a myriad of types for an even greater variety of uses. The key to high quality Diatomaceous earth products is simply to ensure that the diatomite rock being mined is of sufficient purity and free from clays and other minerals. This sounds easy but in reality there are very few Diatomite deposits world-wide that are of sufficient purity, and even then,  very careful extraction has to be effected to prevent  inclusion of impurities. More demanding uses for diatomite such as for use in animal feed applications therefore call for a very  homogenous product where most of the broken frustules are  eliminated  and the whole ones left intact. Important is to use food grade Diatomaceous earth, produced from natural  freshwater sources with a neutral to alkaline pH of >7.  This product has been approved as a feed supplement by organisations such as the FDA and USDA. In such case it is acceptable as  an  organic  feed  additive  for  livestock,  such as  the  product coming  from Olifantshoek.  The  Olifantshoek product has  also  been  registered in terms of the  South African Agricultural Department Act 36 of 1947, and also carries SGS, EU, GRAS and EPA approval. In fact it has been proposed that the choice of Diatomaceous earth is critical to any effect seen. The pool grade and filter grade, for example, have not been approved as a feed additive and it may be harmful to use them and they will not accomplish the desired results.  

This is what a more purified diatomite material looks like, similar to the Olifantshoek product been distributed by Animate in South Africa.

 purified diatomite material

Fossil  Shell  Flour  Diatomaceous earth  (referred  to as  Diatomite)  used in livestock and poultry must be milled until it is almost completely amorphous. This means it has no crystalline (<0.5%) form left to cause damage to larger organisms instead it has small sharp edges which can damage tiny parasites,  insects and larvae, on stored grain,  in animal manure, on infected plants and in the stomachs of livestock and people. Diatomite is light in weight, chalk-like in appearance and very porous and easily crumbled into a soft fine white to off-white powder. This powder further has an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and is very light, due to its high porosity. It has a particle size ranging from less than 1 micron to more  than  1  millimeter,  but  typically 10 to 200 microns (10 microns and  a  median  pore diameter of 1.2 microns for the Olifantshoek product). Diatomite is primarily amorphous silica (>86% silicon)  and  is  distinct from crystalline  silica  (sand)  or  quartz.  Amorphous  silica  is much more soluble than crystalline silica and is not a health hazard. In 1939, the Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, Professor Adolf Butenant, proved that life cannot exist without Silica. At the same time Dr. Barbara Hendel stated that "Silica it the most important trace mineral for human  health!"  In  addition,  there  is  5%  sodium,  3% magnesium,  2%  iron  and  14  valuable trace elements such as selenium and copper present in Diatomite.  

Over  the  years  Diatomaceous  earth  has  been  used for many  things  from cat  litter to  water filters, food preservative to insect killer. The  ancients used to use it to detoxify their bodies from  heavy  metals.It  has  also  been  used  as  a  filtration  aid,  as  a  mild  abrasive,  as  a mechanical  insecticide,  as  an  absorbent  for  liquids,  as  cat  litter,  as  an  activator  in  blood clotting studies, and as a component of dynamite. As it is also heat-resistant, it can be used as a thermal insulator.  

DIATOMITE USE IN LIVESTOCK AND POULTRY PRODUCTION

Food  grade  Diatomite  users  have  reported  four  distinct  uses  in  livestock  and  poultry production, namely insect and parasite control, mineralization, deodorization/absorption, and grain  protection.  At  this  stage  one  must  admit  that  each  use  for  Diatomite  has  its  own folklore,  facts  and  fiction  associated  with  it  of  which  some  will  be  discussed  below.  Many uses including some of those presented here, are strictly reports of what people have done with  the  food  grade  Diatomite.  More  proper  scientific  work  is  therefore  required  to  confirm the many positive testimonies and some peer reviewed work that already exists to give this product its rightful place in more effective and competitive “green” livestock food production practises.  Optimal  feeding  levels  in  different  species  and  for  different  applications  will  in particular be essential to develop through proper scientific studies.  At this stage it appears that those levels will be anything between 0.5% and 2% of the total diet of animals or birds, but need to be finally expressed as milligrams required/animal or bird/day.

In Diatomite’s mode of action, the shape of the diatom shells and the size of the holes in the surface of these shells play a very important role. In spite of the immense variations in shape and  size, each diatom  species  has  two  things  in  common,  chemically  the  same  silica  shell and  physically  an  intricate  perforated  structure.  Most  of  the  total  shell  structures  do  not survive  the  mining  and  milling  process.  Surprisingly  this  is  not  a  requirement  for  the numerous  applications that  exist for Diatomaceous  earth.  It  is the myriad  of  interconnected pores  and  generally  hard,  irregular  structure  that is  important  to  the  functionality  of  this remarkable earth.

Being formed under water, diatoms will not dissolve in water. In fact, even in the stomach of animals or birds, surrounded with powerful digestive juices, they pass all the way through the body  almost  complete.  A  very  small  amount  is  leached  out.  As  it  passes  through  the stomach and intestinal tract, a number of important things happen. These happenings occur as safe and physical actions and not as chemical or nutritional.

Parasite and Insect control

Controlling parasitic worms in a livestock operation is critical in maintaining a productive and healthy flock of sheep, or herd of cows, or young growing animals. Some insecticides have been  banned  due  to  the  negative  effects  on  animals and/or  humans.  The  biggest  driving force  in  the  development  of  new  insecticides  has  been  the   desire  to   replace   toxic insecticides  with  “green  products”  to  minimize  the negative  effects  on  the  ecology  in wilderness  areas.  It  is  true,  that  when  used  under the  correct  conditions,  almost  any chemical  substance  is  'safe',  but  when  used  under  the  wrong  conditions  most  insecticides can be a threat to health and/or the environment.

Diatomite has been used for at least two decades as a natural de-wormer for animals. The veterinary  faculty  at  Clemson  University  in  South  Carolina  (Professor  Jean  Bertrand)  was one of those that have clearly demonstrated that Diatomite can be used with huge success against internal worms and parasites. In their studies it increased the productivity and profit on  dairy  and  cattle  farms  where  an  alternative  for chemical  products  was  required. Minnesota’s  Department  of  Agriculture  also  recommends  Diatoms,  while  the  Canadian Council  for  Organic  Agriculture  includes  Diatomite on  their  suggested  list  of  de-worming products. The National Council of Organic Standards (NSOB) and the National Experimental Council (NRC) in the USA have a data base of products published wherein they discuss the advantage  of  chemical  inoculations  and  suggest  that  Diatomite  be  used  as  an  alternative. Numerous South African farmers are already making use of Diatomite with great success. A few years ago, farmers in the Northern Cape noticed that wild animals visited certain areas and rolled in the soil. The observations that followed from this behaviour showed that there was  a  marked  decline  of  the  parasitic  load  on  these  animals.  This  observation  was confirmed  when  containers  filled  with  Diatomite  were  placed  in  trees  and  animals  came  to rub against them. Several trials followed and a marked effect was observed after a period of six weeks.  

On a microscopic level Diatomite is extremely sharp with physico-sorptive properties; this is how it is used for example as an insect and ant killer. It is spread out finely in the area you need pest control and its abrasive action scratches off the water proof coating of the insects and  absorbs  lipids  from  the  waxy  outer  layer  of  their  exoskeletons, which  basically  causes them to  dehydrate  to  death.  Extensive  studies for  example  on  both  ostrich  and  poultry  has proven the product 100% effective against red mites, fleas, etc.

This  abrasive  action  is  also  particularly  good  in  humans  and  animals  where  medical-grade Diatomite  is  used  in  getting  rid  of  unwanted  parasites,  worms  (neutral  anthelmentic  de-wormer), etc. Another theory as to why Diatomite can be effective against internal parasites is that it acts as a buffer in the stomach creating a constantly neutral pH which results in an unsuitable  environment  for  the  feeding  and  reproduction  of  the  parasites.  Conversely,  it creates an optimum environment for the animals’ digestive systems. Some scientists believe that  Diatomite  is  a  de-ionizer  or  de-energizer  of  the  worms  or  parasites.  Regardless  of  the method  of  operation,  farmers  report  definite  control.  More  scientific  evidence  is  required though to prove the different theories.  

For  effective  use,  the  Diatomite  must  be  fed  long  enough  to  catch  all  the  newly  hatching eggs  or  cycling  of  the  worms  through  the  lungs  and back  to  the  stomach.  At  this  stage  a minimum of 60 days is suggested at 1-2% of dry weight of the total ration. Do not give it to very  small  pregnant  animals  such  as  cats,  guinea  pigs,  etc.  and  do  not  feed  continually  to babies or very small adult animals such as cats, hamsters, etc. The material may be fed on a continuous basis to larger livestock for continuous parasite control and other use.  

To  assess  the  efficacy  of  Diatomaceous  earth  as  an alternative  to  anthelmintics  in  grazing ruminants, two scientific studies were carried out in the UK by Dr Barbara McLean. Animals treated  with  anthelmintics  and  groups  of  untreated animals  were  included  for  comparison. They  concluded  that  cattle  and  sheep  which  received  the  Diatomaceous  earth  supplement had  low  Faecal  Egg  Counts  (FEC)  for  the  duration  of  the  experimental  period,  similar  to animals in the anthelmintic groups.

In  addition,  numerous  on-farm  trials  have  also  been  done  in  South  Africa  to  determine  the impact of Diatomite as a natural pesticide replacement for internal parasite control. One trial was  conducted  in  a  sheep  feedlot  in  the  Northern  Cape  from  March  2009  to  improve  the quality  of  life  of  Dorper  lambs  and  help  remove  internal  parasites.  This  was  done  by including  Diatomite  in  their  feed  as  opposed  to  inoculating  them.  Inoculation  is  labour intensive  and  subjects  the  animals  to  stress  because  of  the  handling  factor,  whereas Diatomite  is  a  natural  non-toxic  pesticide  included  in  their  feed  and  causes  no  stress. Inoculating  is  also  expensive,  whereas  Diatomite  is  inexpensive  and  therefore  a more  cost effective  treatment  with  no  side  effects.  Usually  chemical  treatment  only  kills  internal parasites with no additional benefits, and has a withdrawal period prior to the animal product being  marketed.  Parasites  also  build  up  resistance against many  of  the  chemical  products and  parasite  reinfestation  usually  starts  again  soon  after  dosage  with  chemical  treatments. Because  no  chemical  action  or  reaction  takes  place,  this  process  is  mechanical  in  nature and no resistance or immunity can therefore be built up to it. It may also be thought of as a mechanical barrier or repellent.

Faecal samples of lambs in the Northern Cape study were collected the day before the trial started  and  sent  to  a  renowned  animal  health  company  to  be  analysed  for  worm  egg content. The lambs were divided into five groups with 15 animals in each group and placed in separate pens. Chalk colouring and ear tags were used to identify each pen. Each animal was  weighed  and  manually  graded.  An  average  weight was  given  for  each  pen.  All  five groups  received  a  Covexin  injection  on  arrival  which  helps  curb  deaths  from  pulpy  kidney and Pasteurella. For experimental reasons two groups received a 20 mm liquid diatom dose as  well.  Group  one  which  is  classified  the  control group  received  an  injection  for  killing worms from a renowned animal health company.

The  lambs  were  fed  lucerne  for  the  first  three  days  to  adjust  from  the  veldt  to  feedlot conditions.   Finishing pellets containing diatomite concentrate were slowly introduced to the lambs over a period of a further six days until they received 100% finishing pellets on day 10 containing 1% and 2%  Diatomite. The control group was fed on  finishing pellets containing no Diatomite.   

Lamb  weights  increased  during  the  experimental  period  in  the  feedlot.  The  group  of  lambs fed with 1% Diatoms Pellets weighed 10% more than the control group after 46 days. When slaughtered the lambs all graded A2’s and  A3’s. First worm egg count  reading of all lambs was  2  400.    Final  reading  of  lambs  using  Diatomite varied  from  150  to  750.  The  control group  which  was  inoculated  for  experimental  reasons  with  a  serum  to  kill  worms  had  a reading of 600.

Due  to  serious  intensification  of  wildlife farming and  breeding farms over  the  last  20  years, game, similar to sheep and goats, have experienced an increase in internal parasite loads, which often prove fatal. Internal parasites like round worms, i.e. Haemonchus spp and other helminths,   have   caused   great   economic   losses   to   game   farms   nationwide.   Typical treatments  used  until  now  in  combating  helminths  are  chemical  anthelminthics  such  as Ivermectin and Levamisole.  

Unfortunately  over  time  and  due  to  bad  dosage  practice,  worms  have  even  in  game developed a resistance to the chemical anthelminthics. Diatomite has shown to have positive health effects in informal trials done on specific game farms country wide. One such recent trial  done  by  Dr  Peter  Rodgers  on  sable  antelope  has  shown  a  95%  decline  in  faecal  egg counts from a small group of sable antelope over a period of one year.

Mineralization

Feeding Diatomite to poultry or livestock has constantly shown gains in production. This gain could  probably  be  attributed  to  any  single  or  combination  of  factors  as  described  in  this article.  One  obvious  answer  would  be  that  the  Diatomite  reduced  the  parasite  population which  resulted  in  decreased  stress  on  the  animal  and  increased  food  assimilation.  Maybe the  "mineral"  content  of  the  Diatomite  plays  some  role  in  this  as  well.    Diatomite  does provide  a  broad-spectrum  of  naturally  occurring  chelated  minerals  that  include  calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphate, sodium, titanium, potassium and others. Depending on levels
that will finally prove optimal, the mineral/trace mineral content that it provides could replace a small portion of the total mineral/trace mineral premix. However, the properties it contains in  improving  the  absorption  of  other  minerals  and  trace  minerals,  in  particular  the  effect  of silicon  on  improved  overall  mineralization  (e.g.  bone)  as  scientific  studies  (amongst  others researchers of the University of Wisconsin) have clearly proven, could rather be the reason for enhanced performance. In vivo experiments with rats for example revealed a relationship between  silicon  and  calcium  in  bone  formation  where  dietary  silicon  increased  the  rate  of mineralization.  Subsequently  it  also  showed  to  be  positively  involved  with  magnesium  and fluorine in the growing bone of the chicken. Other studies support this for they have indicated that silicon is involved in the metabolic chain of events necessary for the epiphyseal cartilage sequences required for normal bone growth.

Dr Edith Carlisle undertook a study in the mid 1970’s at the University of California (J. Nutr. 106:478-484,  1976)  where  she  demonstrated  the  essentiality  of  silicon  for  growth  and development  in  chickens.  From  this  study,  it  was  reported  that  the  silicon  supplemented group had thicker legs and larger combs in proportion to their size as well as a significantly higher incremental average daily gain (36g over 24 days). Dr Carlisle also demonstrated that the site of action was in the glycosaminoglycan-protein complexes of the ground substance.  

In humans for example, silicon has also been proven to be responsible for the depositing of minerals into the bones, especially calcium.  Some scientists even refer to it as a precursor for  calcium  that  could  replace  some  calcium  if  it  becomes  insufficient.    Specific  work  by  a group of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Pennsylvania (Prof A.R. Vaccaro) and New York (Dr J.F. Brandoff;  Prof  J.S.  Silber)  further  proved  that  silicate  selectively  replaced  phosphate  in  the calcium-phosphate lattice structure and potentially provides a catalyst for bone formation.  

In  animals  and  poultry  there  are  various  examples  across  species  where  production  or health  problems  are  linked  to  calcium  deficiency.  Feeding  Diatomite  with  its  possible  large range of functions may therefore serve at the same time as a comforting tool to alleviate or prevent any calcium related performance or health issues if and when they may occur. 

Deodorization/Absorption

Since  deodorizing  and  absorption  are  natural  functions  of  Diatomite  they  can  be  added  as another major farm use benefit. These two functions will continue to happen as undigested Diatomite passes through with manure. Reduced fly hatching is usually observed in manure from  livestock  fed  Diatomite.  Some  dairy  and  pig  farmers  are  also  spreading  it  in  bedding (for odour and moisture control) in addition to that coming through the manure. There is no reason  why  it  will  not  be  very  effective  in  the  bedding  of  broiler  and  free  range  layer chickens. Evidence also shows that it binds NH3 very effectively, which will certainly have big health  effects  and  is  a  reason  for  the  product  being  such  a  good  odour  reducer  in  most intensive farming operations.

In  today's  world,  most  of  all  food  (animal  or  human),  all  water  and  air  contains  harmful substances,  which  taken  internally  causes  stress  on  the  immune  system.  Each  individual Diatomite  shell  has  a  strong  negative  charge  and  it  is  very  fortunate  that  many  harmful things entering the body have a positive charge. Acting as a magnet, the negatively charged shell  attracts  and  absorbs  positive  things  that  are  small  enough  to  go  through  the  holes. Because  of the  strong  charge,  each  shell  can  absorb  a  large  number of  positively  charged substances,  irrespective  of  whether  they  may  be  chemical  or  in  the  form  of  bacteria  or viruses.  They  pass  on  through the  stomach  and  intestine,  taking  these harmful  substances out of the body. Gram positive bacteria that are usually targeted in ruminant animals by the use  of  antimicrobial  feed  additives  may  also  bind  to  the  negatively  charged  shells  if Diatomite  would  be  added  into  the  feed  of  such  animals.  This  could  further  mean  that Diatomite  may  perhaps  be  an  effective  replacer  for antibiotic  and  antimicrobial  products commonly used to perform these functions. An in vitro assay study was also recently done at Onderstepoort  to  determine  the  impact  that  Diatomite  (2%  concentration)  exposure  may have  against Escherichia  coli  (ATCC  25922),  Staphylococcus  aureus  (ATCC  29213) andPseudomonas  aeruginosa  (ATCC  27853).  From the  report  it  was  evident that  after  only  20minutes the three bacterial isolates were inactivated 86.8%, 46.7% and 94.5% respectively.

The  absorption  characteristics  may  probably  be  one of  the  most  important  traits  Diatomite could have. Too little peer reviewed work unfortunately still exists and therefore Animate has made this specific trait one of the key areas that will be researched on this product within the next 12 months. 

Grain Protection and Anti-caking Properties

Another use to mention would be grain and flour storage. Diatomite offers a great and easy answer  to  chemical  contamination  of  stored  grain and feeds. Irradiation could  be  used,  but cost and negative health effects make it very undesirable. Grain board tests in Canada have proven  in  the  field  that  Diatomite  protects  stored grain  without  contaminating  it.  The  fresh water  diatoms  are  preferred  to  sea  types  for  several  reasons.  The  bio-activity  seems  to be better  and  the  health  ramifications  of  breathing  the  fine  white  dust  seems  to  be  almost negligible because of its 99% plus amorphous structure compared with a higher percentage crystalline structure.

Diatomite  also  has  wide  application  for  an  anti-caking  agent  in  grain  storage  as  well  as mixed  feeds.  This  helps  for  better  flowability,  mixing  and  handling  by  preventing  particles from clumping together.

TESTIMONIES AND OFFICIAL RESULTS

Diatomite further also appears to aid directly in feed conversion and production performance, and  promotes  better  health  and  animal  product  quality  (e.g.  egg  shells).  At  the  same  time silicon in Diatomite stimulates energy and cell metabolism and helps prevent kidney stones and  health  infections  of  the  urinary  tract.  It  further  strengthens  and  stimulates  the  immune system and stimulates hair growth and improves its shine, luster and strength (application in horses and show cattle).

Below  are  just  a  few  of  the  typical  numerous  global  and  local  testimonies  by  veterinarians and  larger  farming  operators  on  results  and  observations  made  in  their  operations  with commercial studies.

  1. Two controlled on farm lamb feedlot performance studies have been conducted in South Africa.  One  trial  used  75  lambs  (Trial  1)  and  another  30  lambs  (Trial  2).  The  lambs  in both  studies  were  randomly  allocated  into  different  groups.  In  Trial  1  three  treatments were evaluated (Control with no Diatomite, 1% Diatomite and 2% Diatomite). In this trial a  significant  reduction  in  worm  egg  counts  was  observed for  both  Diatomite  treatments after  31  days  of  feeding  compared  to  the  Control  group.  Significant  performance improvements  were  also measured for the  Diatomite treatments.    Feed  conversion  rate was improved by 5% and 11% and overall profitability per lamb was R12-35 and R35-35 in  favour  of  the  1%  Diatomite  and  2%  Diatomite  groups  respectively  above  the  Control group.  In  Trial  2,  two  treatments  were  evaluated  (Control  with  Cidectin,  1%  Diatomite without Cidectin). Significant performance improvements were also measured for the 1% Diatomite  treatment  in  this  trial.  ADG  was  improved  by  1.12kg  live  weight  and  overall profitability (accounted for Cidectin and Diatomite cost in each treatment) per lamb was R16-44 in favour of the 1% Diatomite group above that of the Control group.
     
  2. In a dairy herd 15-20% higher butterfat was recorded compared to the group that had no Diatomite. All fly larvae in the manure were destroyed. Diatomite was also very effective in fully replacing the chemical de-wormer in the herd.

  3. In  another  dairy  herd  the  Diatomite  group  improved  in  milk  quality  (butterfat  increase from  3.7  to  3.9%)  and  cow  health.  The  product’s  buffering  capabilities  in  the  rumen helped  digestion  allowing  for  better  nutrient  utilization  of  the  same  diet.  It  also  stopped cows from eating dirt.

  4. One test involved 12 dairy cows, one half of the cows in each group had five percent by weight of the feed replaced with Diatomite. Composite milk samples of four consecutive milkings were analyzed for fat, solids-not-fat, and protein. Test results showed a milk fat percent  increase  from  3.97  percent  to  4.04  percent and  a  milk-solids-not-fat  increase from 3.76 percent to 3.81 percent in the experimental animals over the control animals.

  5. Another  test  involved  a  herd  of  purebred  Jerseys,  which  were  fed  Diatomite  on  a  "free choice" basis, i.e. without mixing it in with the feed. At the end of 18 months there was a 15 % average increase in butterfat as well as a 15 % increase in milk per cow.

  6. Complete odour and fly control was observed in a dairy barn with Diatomite treatment.  It also successfully replaced some of the current mineral supplement and resulted in more shiny coats and general health improvement.

  7. In  another  test,  alternate  Holstein-Friesian  calves,  destined  to  be  retained  in  the  herd, were  fed  4g  of  the  Diatomite  earth  in  the  morning  milk  feeding.  This  amounted  to approximately  1%  of  the  dry  food  intake  of  the  calves.  After  8  weeks,  the  test  animals showed an increase in weight of 1.36kg per calf over the control animals. At the end of 16 weeks, the increase in weight of the test animals over the control animals was 2.26kg, and at the end of 17 weeks, the increase was 5kg.

  8. Diatomite eliminated calve scours by 99% in a herd of 2000 dairy calves.  This operation completely  stopped  to  use  vaccines  and  antibiotics.  Coats  of  calves  are  also  shinier.  Flies, larvae and excrement odour have almost been completely eliminated.

  9. A pasture study in Minnesota, USA on Holstein heifers (227kg) showed no worms either mid- or late season when these animals consumed 65g Diatomite per day (0.3g/kg BW).

  10. In a test involving the feeding of Diatomite to feeder steers, the average gain of the test animals  was  1.29kg  per  day  compared  with  1.06kg  for  the  control  animals.  After  a  3-month period, the average increase in weight of the test animals over the control animals was 28.3kg.

  11. Diatomite  was  also  fed  to  milk  goats  by  mixing in  one  handful  of  finely  divided  product with the daily ration of each goat. Prior to the usage of Diatomite, the goats were infested with worms and it was unsatisfactory to feed them worm medicine because it made the milk  unfit  for  human  consumption.  After  feeding  them  Diatomite,  there  was  no  more trouble with  worms and the Diatomite did not affect the taste of the milk in any manner whatsoever.

  12. Tests on feeder pigs eliminated internal parasites in the test group in 7 days. Odour was noticeably less offensive after 21 days. Fly population decreased markedly after 6 weeks and feed conversion improved.  

  13. In a test involving 1300 feeder pigs kept on concrete at all times and varying in age and weight from weanlings of 8 weeks, to market age, one half of the pigs were fed a regular ration and the other half had two percent, by  weight, of the regular ration replaced with Diatomite.  On  the  third  day  following  the  beginning  of  the  test  and  for  3  to  4  days thereafter,  round  worms  (Ascarids)  were  observed  in  all  pens  of  the  control  pigs. Parasite studies, direct smear and flotation method, showed no internal parasites at any time  in  the  test  group.  The  control  group,  even  though  previously  de-wormed  with Piperozine, had Ascarids (low level) and M. hirvdinaceous (low level). By the tenth day, all  test  pigs  had  stopped  rooting  and  destroying  the  wooden  feeders  while  the  control group showed no change and continued to destroy feeders and fences at the same rate. They also continued to root in the holding pens prior to shipment.

  14. Two controlled on farm broiler performance studies have been conducted in South Africa at medium sized operations. One trial used 36000 birds and another ±6000 birds. These birds were randomly split into two groups; a Control and a 2% Diatomite treatment group. In the 36000 bird trial growth was improved by 11% and mortality was reduced by 1.2%. In this study the profitability per bird  was R0-95 in favour of the Diatomite group. In the 6000 bird trial growth was improved by 6.3% and feed conversion by 4.2%. In this study the profitability was R0-30 per bird in favour of the Diatomite group.  

  15. Tests  on  laying  chickens  showed  less  flies  with  16000  White  Leghorn  Caged  Layers (8000 in control and 8000 in treatment group) and 75 percent less deaths (14-16/day for control  vs  2-5/day  for  treatment  group).  Droppings were  also  of  drier  consistency. Diatomite vs non Diatomite use also gave a 2-4 case/day increase in egg production and egg breakage went down.

  16. Diatomite  eliminated  the  need  to  further  de-worm  horses.  Its  presence  in  the  faeces prohibited larvae and development of adult flies and thereby reduced fly problems. It also stopped horses from chewing fences.

  17. In a test on dogs, hookworms disappeared after the first day when Diatomite was fed to dogs  and  puppies  at  the  rate  of  one  full  tablespoon  per  day  to  large  dogs  and  one  full teaspoon per day to small dogs and puppies.

  18. Diatomite was fed to grey-hounds at the rate of 450g mixed in with the rations for sixty dogs  of  all  ages.  One  litter  of  pups  which  had  been  receiving  the  ration  with  the Diatomite mixed in with it for approximately four months, were  wormed for a check test and  there  were  no  visible  signs  of  worms  of  any  kind.  All  of  the  dogs,  full  grown  and pups, showed a marked improvement in health and appearance

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

Dose  response  studies will  be  conducted  at  the  University  of Pretoria  to  determine  optimal Diatomite feeding levels for lambs and feedlot cattle as the current recommended levels of 1% to 2% could be significantly higher than the optimal level that will finally be established and  recommended  by  Animate.  Similar  dose  response  studies  will  also  be  conducted  on dairy  cattle.  The  criteria  that  will  receive  focus in  these  studies  will  be  performance  and health  improvement,  rumen  buffering  capacity,  digestive  improvement,  parasite  and  fly control as well as the replacement of growth promoting antimicrobials and antibiotics.  

In addition, dose response studies (0.5%, 1.25%, 2% levels) are already in the process to be conducted  at  the  University  of  Pretoria  to  determine  optimal  Diatomite  feeding  levels  for broilers as the recommended level of 2% used until now could also be much higher than the optimal level that will finally be established and recommended by Animate. At the same time it  will  also  be  determined  in  this  study  if  the  product  can  either  replace,  or  works  in synergism,  with  antibiotics  in  broiler  birds.  Both these  immediate  ruminant  and  poultry studies will be the first of a series of studies to provide proper scientific data on the efficacy of  Diatomite  to  enhance  livestock  and  poultry  production  and  improve  profitability  when Diatomite is fed to production animals and birds.

Intensive scientific studies on game (Diatomite treatment levels = 0.2g and 0.4g per kg BW) are  also  under  way  in  conjunction  with  the  University  of  Pretoria  to  optimize  Diatomite feeding levels for parasite control and where extensive observations will  be done to further justify the cost effective use of Diatomite as a replacement for chemical de-wormers.

Similarly, scientific dose response studies on pigs will also soon be conducted to prove the efficacy  of  Diatomite  to  enhance  pig  production  and  health,  and  improve  profitability  when Diatomite is fed to these animals.

A horse trial at a well known racing stable in South Africa is further underway where internal parasite  elimination  and  fly  control  will  be  studied  together  with  general  health  and appearance criteria. Based on observations of previous work, levels of 100-150g per 450-kg horse will be used in this study.

Depending  on  the  outcome  of  all  of  the  above  initial  studies,  further  research  will  be conducted to:
1.   Better understand the mechanisms and sites of action of Diatomite (or silicon).
2.   Determine its real efficacy and value in livestock and poultry production.
3.   Determine its efficiency as a replacement for “non-green” products.     
4.   Further refine Diatomite feeding levels.  

COMMERCIAL APPLICATION OF DIATOMITE AND USE WITHIN VALUE ADDED PRODUCTS

Most  livestock  will  acquire  a  "taste"  for  Diatomite  if  a  small  amount  is  mixed  in  with  other feed.  After  acquiring  a  "taste"  for  Diatomite  they may  even  take  it  free-choice,  but  in  most instances  it  is  necessary  to  thoroughly  mix  it  with  the  regular  feed  ration.  It  has  also  been determined that it is advisable to feed the Diatomite to larger livestock animals on a regular basis for at least 60 to 120 days to obtain maximum results.

Diatomite  is  currently  marketed  in  the  form  of  concentrate  (powder)  which  is  mixed  into feeds,  licks,  and  blocks,  which  the  animals  ingest through  various  application  systems.  As described   above,   South   African  farmers   have   used   Diatoms   under   extensive   (veldt) conditions with excellent results. Animal trials under feedlot conditions have been conducted recently with excellent results as described earlier.  

Specific  products  have  been  developed  elsewhere  where  Diatomite  is  very  effective  to convert molasses in a 50:50 blend to a dry powder. While the benefit of molasses in such a blend is well understood, the Diatomite can be much more than just a carrier.

Another application is externally in the form of a rolling method, where 200 – 300 kg material is spread over a small area. Game and domestic animals will come and roll at these places. The  diatoms  come  in  contact  with  the  parasites  that  will  shrink  and  eventually  die  from dehydration.Similarly, the dusting of barns and areas alike with dry Diatomite to repel flies, and  the  feeding  of  Diatomite  to  cattle  and  other  species  in  order  to  have  a  certain percentage of the Diatomite uniformly dispersed in the animals' excreta so that fly larvae will not proliferate therein.

Obviously Diatomite has great application as well for smaller domestic animals, especially as a natural product in combating parasites. A full tablespoon per day for large dogs and a full teaspoon  per  day  for  small  dogs,  puppies,  and  cats seems  at  this  stage  the  most  optimal dosage level. Adding Diatomite into the feed by Petfood companies may be the easiest way to ensure safe and effective access to such animals.

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