Goat Deworming

Feb 27, 2023

Written by Dr. Kevin Cox, DVM, CEO Alliance Animal Care

Goat deworming is one of the most highly debated and controversial topics in the animal health world. Goats are not tolerant of overcrowding and poor animal management with respect to parasites, which often leads to confusion about how to handle these animals. There are very few dewormers on the market that are labeled for small ruminant use, and thus there are no approved recommendations for use of other dewormers that are being used off-label. Consequently, goat parasites have developed varying degrees of resistance due to inappropriate or over-usage of both labeled and off-label products. Goats are hosts to Haemonchus contortus, a particularly aggressive parasite that has learned to thrive in even the toughest of environments. This parasite is aggressive enough to be the cause of widespread illness and death in goat herds. Sadly, this parasite also has developed resistance to dewormers, leaving no reliable alternate ways to eliminate it from the herd.
This concern for effective deworming programs for goats led to a method of deworming known as FAMANCHA. This method is based on deworming the goat according to its individual need and not just on a calendar time frame when all the goats in a particular herd are dewormed. FAMANCHA is only effective on Haemonchus contortus and is not generally accepted as the control method for other parasites that goats are susceptible to such as coccidia, the brown stomach worm (Ostertagia), or the mengial worm. In this method of deworming, each individual goat is examined and graded into a category of 1-5 by looking at the conjunctiva and sclera of the eye. This scale is a crude measurement of the degree of anemia caused by the parasite — grades 1 have pink, healthy eye structures, while grades 5 are pale and anemic. This method recommends deworming goats with a grade of 4-5, and, in some circumstances, grade 3 goats may be dewormed. Grades 1 and 2 are not dewormed at all. The main premise behind this process is to only deworm the goats that really need it and to promote natural resistance to parasites by culling the goats that are repetitively in the grade 4 or 5 categories. Another “rule” in this method is to use a dewormer that is effective and continue with that dewormer until it stops working. Work with a veterinarian who can conduct a fecal egg count reduction test to identify a dewormer that is effective in the herd. 
There are a few drawbacks to the FAMANCHA method of deworming. It requires a certain degree of training to effectively evaluate the grades; however, Master Meat Goat Classes teach FAMANCHA, and a certified FAMANCHA trainer can teach the process to beginners. There are also laminated cards to help guide the decision-making process. Additionally, there are a few principles that need to be taught along with the grades. The process involves examining individual goats, and the frequency of doing so is still somewhat debated as this is often dependent on management style. Consistency, accurate record-keeping, and good lighting are also essential to effective grading. Finally, another deworming protocol may be necessary if parasites other than Haemonchus contortus are found in the herd. 
This method of deworming based on need and not on the calendar will help ensure that effective goat dewormers will be around for years to come. If you have questions about FAMANCHA, see your local veterinarian or a certified FAMANCHA trainer. Your local Co-op can also help you with dewormer choices after you are ready to begin the FAMANCHA method of deworming. Find the Co-op nearest you here!
For more content like this, check out the latest issue of The Cooperator.

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