Bad advice from veterinarians got us into the mess with drug-resistant intestinal worms but hopefully good advice will help get us out.
As I’ve mentioned on the blog several times, and as those of y’all who listen to the podcasts know, folks who raise goats and sheep are facing a crisis that is the consequence of administering too much deworming medication over the past 20-30 years. By eliminating those worms that cannot survive the drugs, we’ve made it much easier for those which can to mate and reproduce. The result is that the existing worms are now largely unaffected by the drugs and what was once a minor problem now threatens the existence of the entire population.
The solution to this, assuming it is not too late, is to dramatically reduce the use of these drugs. That means, for starters, only administering them to animals that actually need them (as opposed to the common practice of just treating the entire herd at once). A difficulty is that the Barber Pole worm (the worst of the bunch) doesn’t show easily observed symptoms (such as diarrhea). FAMACHA is a technique designed to help farmers and ranchers detect when a goat or sheep needs treatment, so that treatment can be limited to the affected animal.
The technique involves looking at the membrane inside the animal’s eyelid to determine if it is anemic. The color of the membrane will reveal that (as it is a function of the amount of ratio of red to white blood cells in the animal). To try to help prevent another set of problems, the FAMACHA cards (the color key to the test) are only provided by vets to folks who have taken a training class in how to use them properly.
Cherie and I took the class last week. These photos are of her practicing on a sheep at Virginia Tech.
This is a labor-intensive practice, particularly for those with large flocks. But the alternative may be the loss of nearly all the goats in the country. That may happen anyway, but at least this seems to give us a better chance.
Ah, the simple life.