10 Animal Husbandry Skills Preppers Should Know

Livestock prepping is one of the most difficult and essential parts of any long term survival plan.

Unless you have an unlimited budget that allowed you to stockpile three or more years worth of long term storage food and powdered milk stored in your basement, you will need livestock… healthy livestock, in order to survive a SHTF disaster.

The dogs you keep to help watch around your property and serve as a “no tech” alarm system, must have their medical needs looked to as well.

Calling a vet will not be an option after a disaster. You or hopefully, multiple folks in your family or mutual assistance group, will have to serve as an advanced first-responder for both man and beast alike.

Mastering basic animal husbandry skills for each type of livestock you keep will help you learn how to determine a health issues is arising. Just like with humans, catching an illness early is vital to preventing the problem from getting worse, and curing it so you don’t lose the animal.

Being aware of physical and behavior signs of illness may also prevent you from butchering and consuming a sick animal that can in turn, cause you and your loved ones to become ill as well.

Stockpiling animal medications from an agricultural store, like Tractor Supply should be step number one in your emergency livestock health and wellness plan. Some of the medications require refrigeration and have a shorter shelf like (about six months) than others that are shelf stable for up to two years, on average.

1. Deworming Medication

Worms afflict virtually every type of livestock. Stockpiling dewormer, keeping the animal living areas clean, will help to deter, but not prevent, potentially deadly worm infestations. There are some natural ways to help prevent worms, but unfortunately none of them are as effective as manufactured medications.

Diatomaceous earth is a very fine powder that is comprised of fossilized aquatic matter. Regularly sprinkling some diatomaceous earth over livestock feed should help prevent worms to a measurable degree.

To help prevent and treat worms in ruminant livestock, like goats and cattle, cultivate plants that are rich in tannin in your pastures. Horses typically shy away from these plants, but goats and cows can’t seem to resist gobbling them up.

Feeding an “herbal ball” dewormer once a week to your livestock may also help prevent worm infestations.

Herbal Ball Dewormer Recipe

Give 1 tablespoon of the natural herbal ball dewormer for every 100 pounds when treating large livestock. Give 1 teaspoon of the herbal ball mixture per every 30 pounds of body weight when treating medium livestock and large dogs.

Break this amount down drastically when feeding to chickens and rabbits. To feed the herbal balls to small livestock, crumble the ball in your hand and sprinkle it over their feed

You can give the herbal balls once a month for best results or every six to eight weeks. Some homesteaders give herbal balls as a preventative every week to their animals.

If you choose to follow this routine, only include wormwood in the recipe once or twice a month. Long term ingestion of wormwood could cause adverse health effects for both humans and animals.


  • 1 cup of all spice of anise powder
  • 1 cup of ginger – preferably ginger root that has been powdered
  • ½ cup of powdered cloves – whole cloves are fine to use for large livestock
  • 1 cup of rosemary
  • 1 cup of powdered black walnut hulls – do NOT include this in a recipe that will be given to equines, or pregnant or nursing animals.
  • 1 cup of garlic – either minced or powdered
  • 1 cup of cinnamon
  • 1 cup of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cups of mustard seed – powdered
  • 1 cup of psyllium – a soluble fiber
  • 2 cups of wormwood – Don’t include this ingredient in recipes for pregnant or nursing livestock
  • 2 cups of diatomaceous earth
  • 2 cups of thyme leaf
  • 2 cups of sage leaf

When giving the dewormer herbal balls to young animals, wait until they are three weeks old to give them the first dose.

#2. Drenching

Goats are often present on the homesteads and survival compounds operated by preppers. They provide both a source of meat and dairy and do not require the same large amount of space to roam and house as cattle.

Pygmy goats and Nigerian dwarf goats are especially popular with survivalists and minimal acreage homesteaders for the two reasons noted above and the lower feeding costs the smaller version of standard goats, require.

Goats, and all other form of ruminant livestock (like cattle) can quickly and severely suffer from potentially deadly bloat. Despite a common misconception, cows do not have four stomachs.

What they do have is four chambers in a single stomach, just like all other ruminants. When they consume too much of the wrong thing, their ruminant gets out of whack, prevents them from chewing their cut, and creates a painful build up of gas.

When bloat happens, you must drench the animal with fluid using tubing pushed into the mouth and down the throat to avoid filling the animals lungs with fluid, instead of its stomach, and killing the animal.

Commercially manufactured products with long shelf lives are readily available to treat bloat. NurtriDrench is one of the most affordable livestock bloat treatment types. I make my own bloat remedies for several reasons.

I prefer to only use products with natural ingredients, or at the very least, ingredients that I can pronounce and because I can easily make bloat drench treatments that are not only just as successful (in my personal experience) as the store bought variety for pennies on the dollar.

I have used a calf nursing bottle to drench a dwarf goat because it allowed me to handle both the drenching liquid and the goat by myself, but this method is not ideal. On large animals, the bottle nipple would not have filled the mouth almost as much as a tube, leaving open the opportunity for choking instead of forced swallowing.

The purpose of drenching is to break up the thick and large gas pockets in the stomach of the animal. After drenching, the sides (NOT the bottom) of the animal should be GENTLY rubbed to further help break up the gas pockets and allow the animal to belch or have the flatulence necessarily to expel the gas and reduce the pressure inside the stomach.

When working with small or medium livestock, stand the animal up on its hind legs during both drenching and the stomach rub. The force of gravity usually helps get the gas bubbles to weaken and make it easier for the animal to expel them.

When you hear the animal begin to chew its cud again, a vital part of ruminant health, you know the bloat is dissipating. This should be followed by an easily visible reduction in the swelling of the animal’s sides, typically its left side will be more swollen than the right.

It is not difficult to tell the difference between bloat and pregnancy in female livestock. Although both conditions will produce swollen bellies and sides. When an animal has bloat, the swollen areas of the stomach feel like a drum when lightly tapped or touched. A pregnant animal will have hard and thick swollen sides when lightly tapped.

Homemade Drenching Liquid


  • ½ cup of carrier Oil – Almond oil and mineral oil seem to work best, but almost any corn or vegetable oil will work.
  • 1 tablespoon of peppermint oil
  • 2 tablespoons of baking soda

*You should also regularly sprinkle baking soda on feed or leave some out in a small feeder as a free choice supplement for goats and other ruminants, to prevent bloat from occurring.

#3. Scours

When livestock has diarrhea, the condition is referred to as scours. All animals should be quickly and easily inspects for signs of scours on a daily basis. Discovering runny droppings in the barn, pen, or coop may alert you to a scours problem, but it will not help you identify which animal is sick.

Get into the habit of glancing at the rear end of each animal during morning feed time for signs of dried scours stains. If scours goes untreated in livestock, it can lead to both dehydration and the spread of disease rapidly. Humans can contract an illness from coming into contact with livestock scours and experience intense stomach cramps and diarrhea, too.

Scours can be a symptom of a whole host of physical issues and be caused by illness, a change in feed, or an environmental problem.

Stopping the diarrhea and preventing dehydration is the first step in preventing an animal from becoming even more sickly. Stocpile commercially manufactured products like Scour-Ease and/or the materials to make your own scours electrolyte treatment.

Homemade Electrolyte Treatment for Scouts


  • 2 teaspoons of salt – sea salt recommended
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda
  • 4 quarts of lukewarm water
  • 8 tablespoons of honey or molasses


  1. Mix all of the ingredients together
  2. Pour in the animal’s waterer or gently force ingestion with a livestock bottle or drenching tube.

#4. Hoof Care

Purchase hoof trimming tools to file and trim the hooves of all livestock to keep them from growing too long, crooked, and infected. Preventing hoof rot and hoof dryness is also essential to the overall health of all types of livestock. You can purchase products to help keep hooves from contracting rot and dryness, but I prefer to make my own.

Hoof Care Elixir


  • 3 cups of carrier oil – I use olive oil, coconut oil, or cooking oil
  • ½ cup of aloe vera juice – this is usually sold in small jugs at Walmart and other big box stores
  • 5 vitamin E capsules – puncture them and toss them into your elixir jug or buy vitamin E oil
  • 1 cup of witch hazel
  • 3 tablespoons of honey – real raw honey
  • 4 drops of tea tree oil


  1. Mix all of the ingredients together.
  2. Store in a jug with a lid until ready to use – should keep for at least 3 months
  3. Spread onto hoof with a clean rag and gently massage all over the entire hoof until it is fully saturated.

#5. Saline Solution

Keep saline solution on hand in your barn tack room so you can flush wounds and better investigate them before treating.

#6. Wound Salve

Keep a triple antibiotic in your barn first aid bag to dress wounds and prevent infection. You can purchase products designed specifically to treat livestock wounds or use Neosporin and similar products designed for humans.

I stock tea tree oil on my tack room first aid shelf The essential oil is a natural antibiotic that has been used for hundreds of years to treat topical wounds. If used in excess, it might cause nervous system issues, particular in small animals.

I have used tea tree oil to treat both humans and animals large and small for decades without problem. If treating a wound on poultry or small dog, use no more than one drop of the essential oil out of an abundance of caution.

One ointment I absolutely never run out of, in the barn or anywhere else on the prepper retreat, is “Miracle Salve”. My great grandfather used to mix up this salve to treat the livestock on his farm, and passed down the recipe to my popaw, who gave it to me.

For nearly 100 years, the salve didn’t have a name. Then, one day, I whipped it out at the primitive horse camp at a nearby state park, and the moniker was created.

A horse was wounded on the trail and the rider did not pack a first aid kit. I whipped out my popaw’s salve and dressed the wound using it and some fresh leaves.

News about the incredibly rapid healing of the deep wound spread and soon everyone wanted some of my miracle salve. Not only does it treat and foster healing of livestock wounds, it will heal human wounds as well – and doubles as an awesome fire starter, too!

The miracle salve has only two ingredients, petroleum jelly and turpentine. Mix together two parts petroleum jelly with one part turpentine. It does not burn, not the least little bit. I mix up big batches so I have enough to use for about six months at a time.

If you are having trouble starting a fire with damp kindling, or even in the rain, slather some of the salve onto a twig and you should have smoke brewing in no time!

#7. Quick Clot

I have quick clot in the barn, in my saddle bags, on the first aid kit attached to the entrance to the small livestock pens and coops, my BOB, my purse….you get the picture. These relatively small one time use swatches are supposed to stop or stem blood flow immediately when a large or deep puncture wound is sustained.

Fortunately, I have never had to try them out, so I can not attest to how well they live up to their claims. But yet, I figure it is better to stockpile and carry them in case they work as well as advertised and can save a life, than to not have them and wish I did.

#8. Vet Wrap

The medical tape can wrap legs of livestock to give support after a strain or sprain has occurred. The vet wrap releases easily without pulling off fur or skin. Plaster of Paris is also handy to have around to make castings as filler for cracks in hooves to deter further damage and to protect abscesses after treatment.

#.9 Livestock Syringe

The syringes designed to treat various types of livestock, make it far easier to administer medicine both quickly and with the proper dosage. If you cannot find a syringe small enough to treat poultry and rabbits for your livestock first aid kit, use one designed to give treatment to a toddler or child.

#10. Sugar and Salt

These items might sound more like ingredients necessary for baking a yummy cake, but they could save the life of an animal in the midst of a potentially deadly bout of colic.

When an animal has colic, they need to consume as much water as possible and keep moving. When the colic becomes worse, their intestines can begin to emerge from their anus. This is the most critical stage of colic.

Getting the intestines back inside of the animal, untangling them if necessary, only works about half of the time when conducted by novices, and in all likelihood, the survival rate boasts only a slightly better percentage when the animal is cared for by a vet – unless surgery is used.

Even the slightest tear in the intestines can cause the growth of a deadly bacteria or internal damage. Manipulating the expose intestines gently back into the body successfully will require a reduction in the swelling sustained during their journey out into the open.

Pouring sugar or salt onto the intestines typically causes a reduction in swelling that will make manipulating them back into the animal’s body far more feasible. Always use clean medical gloves when touching the intestines, and wash them with warm and soapy water if they have touched manure, hay, feed, or other debris.

The amount of sugar or salt used will vary depending upon the severity of the swelling and the type of livestock being treated. Thoroughly coat the intestines and wait until you see a reduction in swelling (usually about one hour) before attempting to gently push them back into the body.

Try to get the animal to eat some coconut oil and honey while treating them for colic. It helps reduce inflammation, and the fight against bacteria. Most animals with colic will be lethargic, may not be able to stand, and will not be interested in eating or drinking.

When treating a miniature mule for colic, we devised a sling lift to keep him up on his feet during the several days of treatment.

An animal that is down for too long will not only get “bed” sores that can become infected, but become bloated and have an internal “puddling” of blood on the parts of their body that are being laid upon. The puddling can cause deadly blood clots and put too much pressure on internal organs and cause them to fail.

Here are some more items to put in your livestock first aid kit and barn

  • Duct tape – works as a bandage in a pinch
  • Cotton strips to wrap around wounds or to layer on them after salve has been applied.
  • Distilled white vinegar – this is the best all around treatment I have ever come across to keep horse flies and wasps at bay.
  • Dusting powder – this will keep insects off of hogs, poultry, and sheep.
  • Waterer herbs – I regularly put cinnamon, cayenne pepper, honey, turmeric, and dried calendula flowers in the waters of all my livestock to ward off various health problems and too boost their immune systems.
  • Disposable razor – to shave away fur to better treat a wound
  • Flashlight – with extra batteries of course. Animals do not always get injured or give birth during daylight. My barnyard inhabitants tend to wait until it is dark, cold, and either raining or snowing to get hurt or go into labor!>
  • Epsom salts – Sore and injured hooves can be soaked in an Epsom salt bath to clean out the wound and to foster healing
  • Rectal thermometer

3 thoughts on “10 Animal Husbandry Skills Preppers Should Know”

    1. I purchase saline solution in the eye care isle at Walmart (for contact lens), it comes in handy squirt bottle for $2-3.

  1. Scours especially in young calves is easily treated with good old PEPTO. We used to make sure we had plenty for the calving season. The generic seems to work as well as the name brand. I believe it was even stocked at our local vet supply store.


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