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What is FAMACHA?


If you manage goats or sheep in places where there are barber’s pole worms, you should know about FAMACHA. It is a method to evaluate the degree of anaemia that animals are suffering by examining the lower eyelid.

Figure 1: to check the FAMACHA score, goats or sheep are restrained and their lower eyelid exposed gently. The colour of the lower eyelid is scored 1 to 5 according to the FAMACHA colour chart.
Figure 1: to check the FAMACHA score, goats or sheep are restrained and their lower eyelid exposed gently. The colour of the lower eyelid is scored 1 to 5 according to the FAMACHA colour chart.

The method was developed in South Africa after extensive research work done at University of Pretoria School of Veterinary Science. Three researchers, Gareth Bath, Jan van Wyk and Francois Malan, collaborated on projects to show that the colour of the lower eyelid (conjunctival mucous membrane) had a strong correlation with the number of red blood cells in the bloodstream (packed cell volume). Low red blood cell levels or anaemia is a feature of infection with barber’s pole worms.

This discovery allowed them to produce the famous FAMACHA chart, which is now used on farms across the world. The chart’s name comes from the first 2 letters of Francois Malan’s nickname ‘Faffa’, the first 2 letters of his second name ‘Malan’ and 3 letters from the word ‘chart’- FAMACHA.

Sheep and goat producers in South Africa soon learnt that when barber’s pole worm was the main target, they could check an entire herd of animals one by one and see which ones needed treatment and which ones didn’t. By avoiding blanket treatment of a mob they achieved several aims:

  1. The ability to select animals for resilience to worms
  2. Target selected treatments allows worms to stay in refugia and slows the onset of drench resistance
  3. Less money spent on drenches

FAMACHA courses are taught in Australia by several experienced practitioners including Dr. Sandra Baxendall of GoatVetOz and Dr. Kylie Greentree of NSW DPI.

Note that this method is especially useful with small mobs or in places like South Africa with plentiful labour. The challenge on Australian properties is to process large numbers of animals that may need to be mustered over long distances, causing a risk in itself.

For more information about worm control in sheep and goats including FAMACHA, see WormBoss.