A groundbreaking method in animal health diagnoses got a hands-on test at West Virginia University, and courses are scheduled to introduce it to producers in the region.

The method, called FAMACHA , lets sheep and goat producers determine whether their flocks have whats known as a significant gastrointestinal parasite burden, specifically a parasite called Barber Pole Worms, Haemonchus contortus. The worms take up residence in the animalsstomachs and can cause them to become anemic.

FAMACHA uses a color chart to evaluate anemia based on the eyelid of the animal. After training on March 19 in the FAMACHA method, several WVU faculty and staff members and students in the lambing management class taught by Dr. Keith Inskeep, professor of reproductive physiology at WVU s Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences, can examine the animals and give an accurate prediction of whether they need to be dewormed.

The FAMACHA system, named after FrancoisFafaMalan with CHA forchart,was developed in South Africa. The systems introduction to the United States is being coordinated by Dr. Ray Kaplan of the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia.

For the group at WVU , Dr. Ken Turner, research animal scientist from the United States Department of Agricultures Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center located in Beaver, W.Va., taught the class. The ARS provided all class materials as part of their outreach and education program. Turner has taught several of these courses around the state.

According to Dr. Phil Osborne, WVU Extension Specialist for Livestock, at least 14 county Extension agents and several farmers have received this training as well.

It was a completely new concept to me and was interesting because it gives you an advantage in checking the health of your sheep,said Tim Harvilla, an agribusiness management and rural development student from Washington, Pa.

The system assesses parasite load by grading the degree of flow of healthy blood to the eyelids on a scale of one to five, with one representing the fewest Barber Pole Worms in the animal. Both eyes are examined and compared to a standard color chart. The test is best done in full sunlight.

Use of techniques like FAMACHA has become necessary in small ruminant management because many of the gastrointestinal worms have become resistant to the few classes of dewormers that are available,said Inskeep.

Studies have shown that some animals are resistant to the worms and that 20 percent of animals in the flock may shed 80 percent of the worm eggs that continue the infection. By treating only the animals with scores of four or five, less dewormer is used, worm resistance to the dewormer is built up less rapidly and parasites are still kept under control because susceptible worms remain in the population.

For their training at the Animal Science Farm on Stewartstown Road, the WVU class used the farms teaching flock of 39 ewes to hone their skills in comparing the eyelids to the chart.

The students had done fecal counts of worm eggs earlier to assess the parasite loads by a more technical method. Some animals were healthier by the FAMACHA system than would be expected by their fecal egg counts, and Turner pointed out that these animals were probably carrying other species of worms that are not as destructive as the Barber Pole Worms.

Dr. Margaret Minch, WVU faculty veterinarian, and the students in lambing management are doing an experiment to test the effectiveness of two dewormers in the ewes that had FAMACHA scores of three and higher worm counts. They will score the ewes and do fecal egg counts again after deworming to see if the dewormers are doing their job.

Turner has scheduled two other FAMACHA training classes in the state during April. The classes, which are open to the public, will be held:

  • Wednesday, April 4 at West Virginia State Fairgrounds, Fairlea, W.Va., beginning at 9 a.m. For more information, contact David Richmond, Raleigh/Summers County Extension Advisor, 304-255-9321 or David.Richmond@mail.wvu.edu .
  • Saturday, April 28 at Doddridge County Park, outside of West Union, W.Va. beginning at 9 a.m. For more information, contact John Murray, Doddridge/Gilmer/Ritchie County Extension Advisor, 304-643-2164 or John.Murray@mail.wvu.edu .