Playing with Poop and a Poke in the Eye

03/26/2011 at 8:15 pm 4 comments

Yesterday I attended a great workshop on parasite managment, including doing fecal samples on a MacMaster slide, and FAMACHA training.  It’s a great program, designed to educate small ruminant producers on sustainable ways to manage the parasite load in their animals and pastures.

Comparing the eye membrane to the FAMACHA chart

It includes lots of information about the life cycles of parasites, reproduction, ways to measure the amount of parasites in your animals, and best practices for preventing parasite resistance to dewormers.  Basically,  there are only 3 types of deworming chemicals that you can use, and the worms are getting resistant at an alarming rate.  While we do need to treat our animals who are suffering from an infestation, we don’t necessarily need to treat the entire flock all at once.  Something like 30% of the flock will be carrying 80-90% of the egg producing parasite, so if we only treat that 30%, then only those egg producers will get exposed to the deworming chemical, and perhaps pass on some immunity to their eggs.  Any egg producing parasites in the remaining 70% of the flock that did not get treated, (and which are not causing any disease to the animal) will not be exposed to the drug, therefore, not building up resistance in the next generation of eggs.  The idea being, that since we can never eliminate all the parasites, we can at least keep a portion of the parasite population from being exposed to the drugs, thereby reducing overall resistance in the parasite population. 

Then the class introduced a few different methods to determine which animals are in the 30% to treat category.  One being FAMACHA scoring, in which you compare the mucuos membranes of the eye to a card, to determine what level of anemia there is, if any, in that animal.  (you don’t really poke them in the eye, it doesn’t hurt them at all)  Anemia being a good indicator of barberpole worm infestation, as they are blood sucking worms.  Another method is body scoring for condition, and the last being actual fecal sample testing, under a microscope, and counting the eggs.  

I definitely feel like I have a much better understanding of what’s going on with the parasites, and will make some changes to the way that I approach the management of both my animals and my pastures.  I highly recommend this workshop/training to anyone who is raising sheep or goats.  Anyone who is interested can contact me for contact info for your state. 

Now, if someone can direct me to an inexpensive microscope, I’d like to do fecal counts on the rest of my flock.  The samples I brought were for Seymour and Nola, and they were both super low numbers, so looking good for now.  But, spring is coming, and that’s when things start getting interesting.  I’m hoping to keep right on top of it this year, and use less chemical and more herbal treatments, but I want to be able to continue to check for efficacy. 

Being a shepherd is so glamorous.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Technical Difficulties…and a new view Barn Raising this weekend!

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Zach  |  03/27/2011 at 9:47 am

    Such an interesting post! And the headline made me chuckle. I would probably poke myself in the eye every time I used the microscope.

  • 2. Amy Pfeiffer  |  04/04/2011 at 3:27 pm

    Did you find a microscope? I have a real cheapy that I used to use for fertility testing – it’s not very powerful, but if you want it, just cover my postage costs. I’m Purlene on ravelry, BTW.

  • 3. Anna  |  04/05/2011 at 5:57 pm

    Ah the science of Poop. 🙂 I REALLY like the idea of dooooing (sorry that was very bad!) some goaty tiles!

  • 4. Jennifer King  |  04/07/2011 at 9:33 pm

    I really wish I could have taken that workshop with you. Have you heard of any more local to me? Jen


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