Training Offers Livestock Producers Tips to Detect Barber Pole Worm in Sheep and Goats

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FREDERICKSBURG, Ohio – Growing grass signals the start of the parasite season and small ruminant (sheep and goat) livestock producers need to know how to quickly and easily identify which animals to treat for an internal parasite that can devastate a herd.

Using the FAMACHA diagnostic system, livestock producers can easily identify which animals are suffering from a heavy infestation level of the Haemonchus contortus parasite, also called the barber pole worm, said Rory Lewandowski, an Ohio State University Extension agriculture and natural resources educator.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

Developed in South Africa, the FAMACHA system uses a chart to match the animal’s eyelid color to anemia levels, which is an indication of parasitic infection, Lewandowski said.

“The barber pole worm is a blood-sucking parasite that causes anemia in animals with heavy infestations,” he said. “The symptoms of anemia show up in the color of the membrane of the animals’ eyes.

“The FAMACHA score card allows the user to rank the eyelid color of the animal on a scale of 1 to 5, with animals scored at 3, 4 or 5 typically needing to be treated with a chemical dewormer to prevent possible death of the animal.”

OSU Extension, the Ohio Heartland Sheep Improvement Association (OHSIA), and the Sheep and Wool Program are sponsoring  a workshop May 21 to teach sheep and goat producers how to use the system and what to do if the parasite is found in their animals.

The workshop will provide classroom instruction in the morning focused on small ruminant parasite biology, lifecycle, how chemical resistance is acquired, and offer information on parasite management control strategies including the FAMACHA diagnostic system. Participants will be trained in the use of the FAMACHA system including hands-on practice using sheep, Lewandowski said.

While the FAMACHA system isn’t a cure-all for dealing with internal parasites, it is an effective part of an overall parasite control strategy, he said.

“Using a FAMACHA score card, producers can determine which animals need to be dewormed,” Lewandowski said. “To be the most effective, producers need to FAMACHA score animals, particularly lambs and kids once a week during the parasite season beginning mid-June and onward.

“The barber pole worm is a devastating parasite. For example, a lamb can go from healthy and energized to being on death’s doorstep in a matter of seven to 10 days. If action isn’t taken, we can see death of the animal a few days later.”

Targeted selective deworming of the herd is important to minimize parasite resistance to chemical dewormers, he said.

“This parasite is common throughout the Midwest and Southern regions of the U.S. and  is one of the major economic challenges to raising sheep and goats,” Lewandowski said. “During the summer months, 95 percent of the total worm population is on pastures just waiting for ingestion by grazing sheep or goats.

“Selective deworming and the FAMACHA system works because 20 percent of the animals in any flock will harbor 70 to 75 percent of the total worm load of this parasite.”

The workshop is from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Leroy Kuhns Farm, 8085 County Road 235 in Fredericksburg.

Registration is $25 for OHSIA members and $30 for nonmembers. Each additional person from the family or farm is $15 for OHSIA members and $20 for nonmembers. The workshop is limited to the first 30 participants. Registration includes lunch, handouts and a FAMACHA eyelid scorecard. The deadline to register is May 13.

For more information, contact Lewandowski at 330-264-8722 or A registration form can be found at

Tracy Turner
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Rory Lewandowski