The Small Ruminant IPM project taught sheep and goat producers a more integrated approach to managing internal parasitism in their flocks. Four-hour workshops were held to introduce producers to the practice of analysing fecal samples to determine fecal egg counts and to certify producers in the use of the FAMACHA eye anemia system to determine the need for deworming individual animals. Instruction also included basic concepts of parasitology and other methods of managing parasitism, such as multi-species grazing, managing grazing height, and genetic selection. The program supported applied research projects pertaining to worm control in small ruminants.
The contribution of small ruminants to a diversified and profitable agriculture in the Northeast is limited by the effects of internal parasites (especially stomach worms) on the health and production efficiency of grazing sheep and goats. Sustainable systems of parasite control are needed to improve animal health and reduce production costs, as well as provide more healthful products to consumers, lessen the use of chemical inputs and their possible impacts on the environment, and encourage pasture-based systems of meat and fiber production. The purpose of this project was to teach sheep and goat producers scientifically-proven methods of parasite control which reduce the use and cost of chemical dewormers, while at the same time achieve more effective results. The project taught an integrated approach to parasite management, focusing on two primary techniques: fecal egg counting (FEC) and FAMACHA (using a color eye chart to measure anemia caused by the barber pole worm). Both techniques gave producers a better understanding of what is going on in their animals and flocks and on their pastures. Both pinpointed the need for anthelmintic treatments as opposed to indiscriminate deworming, and identify worm-susceptible animals for culling. Educational materials on integrated parasite management (IPM) were developed to extend the outreach of the project and the impact of IPM techniques on sheep and goat farms in the Northeast.
- Fifty (50) of the project participants will implement fecal egg counting and/or FAMACHA on their farms as a means of controlling internal parasites in their sheep and/or goat herds.
Fifty (50) additional producers will implement one or more of the following IPM techniques: alternative forages, including browsing; zero grazing; nutritional supplementation; genetic selection; strategic deworming; targetted therapy/selective deworming; proper use of anthelmintics; multi-species or co-grazing; and rotational grazing with sufficient rest periods.
The main component of this project was conducting workshops to teach sheep and goat producers, extension agents, and veterinarians how to use the FAMACHA system as part of an integrated sytem to control internal parasitism in their flocks. The 4-hour workshops included two hours of lecture/discussion and two hours of hands-on activity: FAMACHA and fecal egg analysis. Producers who completed the four hour training received a FAMACHA card and certification in its use. The project provided resources that will enable these trainings to continue past the granting period.
This project also supported the small ruminant research program at the Western Maryland Research & Education, whereby the FAMACHA system was tested under field conditions.
Since 2004, 31 FAMACHA/IPM workshops have been held in 10 states, and 823 producers, extension agents, veterinarians, and youth have been certified in the use of the FAMACHA© system.
The PI has trained more people in the use of the FAMACHA© system than any other person in the U.S. An additional 500+ individuals have been introduced to IPM techniques by attending programs where certification was not possible, due to logistics or time of the year.
The interest and demand for FAMACHA/IPM trainings far exceeded the PI’s pre-grant expecation. It is the most successful extension program the PI has ever conducted in terms of participation and application of knowledge. However, the demand for workshops limited the opportunity to do more on-farm trial work. Since the FAMACHA system had already been validated in the U.S., it seemed more important to provide producer education.
The FAMACHA system has been used to monitor and control internal parasites in sheep and goats for three years at the Western Maryland Research & Education Center. Its effectiveness at the research station has lent greater credibility to the producer training program.
This project resulted in several publications and other outreach products. All participants in IPM workshops received a resource booklet. This resource booklet was also made available to producers who did not participate in an IPM training. Two fact sheets were created on Integrated Parasite Management. One was selected by the Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control (SCSRPC) for inclusion in their teaching packet. Information about IPM was posted to the PI’s various web sites: Maryland Small Ruminant Page (http://www.sheepandgoat.com); Shepherd’s Notebook Blog (http://mdsheepgoat.blogspot.com); and Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test blog (http://mdgoattest.blogspot.com). Several posters were created and presented at national meetings and producer meetings.
Additional Project Outcomes
Impacts of Results/Outcomes
In early 2006, a survey was conducted to measure the impacts of the IPM workshops held in 2004-2005. 90 surveys were returned via e-mail or mail. According to the surveys received: 64.4 percent of producers are having fewer problems with internal parasites in their flocks/herds; 77.8 percent of producers are deworming their animals less often; none are deworming them more often; and 91.1 percent of producers are using the FAMACHA© system to make deworming decisions.
The survey supported antidotal evidence. Typical comments received via e-mail and personal contact are: FAMACHA© really works; It saved my goat’s life; FAMACHA© is saving me loads of money on anthelmintics; FAMACHA© keeps me from habitual and unnecessary deworming; I went home and FAMACHA’ed my sheep and goats; and This is the best program I’ve ever attended.
While the primary focus of the IPM workshops has to provide hands-on training with the FAMACHA© system, the workshops cover all aspects of internal parasite (worm) control. As a result, producers are adopting various other IPM practices: fecal egg analysis, 11.3; fecal egg counting, 22.5; DrenchRite® test for drug resistance, 4.2; mixed species grazing, 22.5 browsing, 42.3; increased grazing height, 35.2; reduced stocking rates, 28.9; nutritional supplementation, 53.5; “zero” grazing, 12.7; selection of resistant breeds, 31.0; selection of resistant individuals, 49.3; periparturient deworming, 50.7; switch to oral dosing of anthelmintics, 29.6; weighing animals to determine dosage, 32.4; grazing tanniferous forages, 2.8; and pasture rest-rotation,60.6.
The use of the FAMACHA system and other IPM techniques offers many potential economic benefits: reduced mortality and morbidity: reduced treatments costs (because fewer anthelmintic treatments are being administered): cost savings by not using ineffective anthelmintics; and enhanced value of breeding stock (FAMACHA can help determine genetic resistance and susceptiblity).
In a survey conducted in 2006, 76 percent of the participants in FAMACHA trainings spent less on anthelmintics in 2005 as compared to the previous year.
Without a doubt, the FAMACHA system and its application will have a long-term effect on the small ruminant industry in the Northeast. Internal parasites severely limit productivity and profits. We are at a critical point in the industry, as the worms have developed resistance to all of the anthelmintics. The FAMACHA system will prolong the effectiveness of anthelmintics. It also represents a shift in thinking, from using anthelmintics sub-therapeutically to therapeutically. Producers who use the FAMACHA system realize that anthelmintics are a last resort for parasite control and that a more integrated, holistic approach to parasite control is necessary. The long-term impact is that fewer anthelmintics will be used which is better for human health and the environment, but that we’ll still have effective anthelmintics to use when an animal is clinically parasitized. Improved parasite control strengthens the small ruminant industry and will be a contributing factor towards its continued growth and profitability. According to the survey and testimonials, more than 90% of participants in the FAMACHA workshops use the FAMACHA system in one way or another to help them control parasites in their animals.
Areas needing additional study
There continues to be a large demand for training in the FAMACHA system. IPM workshops will continue to be held by this PI and others. We need to figure out ways that the FAMACHA system can be used in larger operations. We need to find ways to expand educational efforts to more states and regions and to provide train-the-trainer sessions.
The Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control, which the PI is a member of, continues to coordinate research efforts on FAMACHA and other IPM techniques. Many studies are looking at the efficacy of non-chemical anthelmintics (copper oxide wire particles, sericea lespedeza).
One of the weakest links in modern parasite control programs is not knowing the efficacy of the anthelmintics (including potential natural dewormers). Expanded use of fecal egg counts and the DrenchRite system will fill this information void. The PI held the first all-day fecal egg counting workshop in 2007 and is working with other institutions to expand the use of the DrenchRite system.