Today I attended a goat health seminar, and in the afternoon there was an optional FAMACHA class. I am so jaded about vets knowing nothing about goats (or having outdated information) that I wasn't really excited about going to anything other than the FAMACHA training, but I figured that if I was going to drive almost two hours to get there, I might as well arrive early. I'm so glad I decided to attend the whole workshop, because the vet who spoke about goat health has actually been raising goats for 15 years, so I learned some interesting and helpful information about milk composition and extra teats.
But the FAMACHA training really excited me, even though I've been trying to use it for the past couple of years in spite of my lack of formal training. I wondered how they would talk about it for two to three hours since it can be explained in one sentence: It's a system where you check a goat's (or sheep's) anemia status by looking at the inside of the eyelids and using dewormer only on goats (or sheep) that are anemic. Well, that was about the last 15 minutes of the workshop! What else did we learn?
Why was the FAMACHA system developed? Well, since the 1980s, there have been no new classes of dewormers discovered. Unfortunately, vets and livestock producers were lulled into a false sense of security by how well they worked initially. Parasites, and especially haeomonchus contortus (known as barberpole worm), adapted beautifully to the dewormers, and now some goat and sheep breeders lose as much as 20% of their animals yearly because of dewormer resistance and parasite overload. Wow, huh! And I thought I had a problem last summer!
Veterinary advice in the past was to administer dewormer to all goats or sheep at the same time. Unfortunately, this created a big problem. Based on a LOT of research, the newest advice is to deworm as seldom as possible. Only deworm animals that are anemic. But since we don't all want to be out in the pasture drawing blood from all our animals every couple weeks, this system was developed as a way to check on their hematocrit without drawing blood. We check the inside of the eyelids. By treating fewer animals, it will take longer for the parasites to develop resistance. For more on the FAMACHA system, check out the website for the Southern Consortium of Small Ruminant Parasite Control.
The FAMACHA vet and another speaker talked about rotating pastures as a means of preserving pasture, as well as reducing parasite load on the pasture. I've been practicing pasture rotation for five years, but I've been doing it incorrectly when it comes to the parasite management part. The vet at U of I told me to deworm and then move the goats immediately to a clean pasture. Apparently, this was the standard advice a few years ago. Now they realize that the goat or sheep should stay on the old pasture for three or four days after deworming and shed all the eggs in the old pasture, because the offspring of survivors are obviously resistant to the dewormer. So, if you move them immediately, you are taking resistant worms to the new pasture.
I can't possibly tell you everything I learned this afternoon, but hopefully I've made you excited enough that you'll visit the website for the Southern Consortium of Small Ruminant Parasite Control and learn more about this for your own flock or herd. If you ever have a FAMACHA training in your area, I'd highly recommend attending!