Small Ruminant Parasite Prevention
Updated: Jul 15
Parasite Prevention is critical. One of the best ways to manage parasite burden is to score the FAMACHA on a regular (preferably monthly basis). A good time to do this is when you check hooves as well.
There is a readily available FAMACHA Scorecard available online. One great option can be found here:
Animals with a FAMACHA of 3 or worse should have a quantitative fecal performed ideally and then be dewormed if their numbers of parasites are increasing at subsequent fecals or if their FAMACHA score is getting worse over time. If the animal is clinical (diarrhea, losing weight) deworming would be recommended.
When deworming it is recommended to use effective dewormers (currently Prohibit and Fenbendazole at the same time, but not combined). It is critical to give the appropriate dose of the dewormer. Using labeled dosages will often be inadequate, and under-dosing of dewormers is a great way to propagate resistance. Dosing of dewormers other than those which are on label requires a prescription and therefore a relationship with a veterinarian.
It is not possible to adopt a legal parasite control strategy without a veterinary client patient relationship.
*Proper deworming doses are not provided here because it is illegal for me (a veterinarian) to dispense or prescribe such doses without first examining the animals*
Treating for parasites in a way that reduces resistance is critical. Many dewormers are not working because they are inappropriately dosed and overused. Ways that we manage resistance (refugia) is to do the following:
1. Keep the pasture length above 3” at all times, preferably about 5-6”. This will
reduce the amount of parasites the animals ingest from the pasture by 75%.
2. DON’T deworm all the animals at the same time.
3. Keep the environment clean as possible to reduce the amount of parasites.
Some options for keeping the environment clean: Raise the hay, so animals are not pooping in it. Keep the water clean as well. A shop vac can be used to clean pellets from the pasture and other surfaces when it is dry.
4. Assess the efficacy of your deworming protocol with quantitative fecals performed
10-14 days after deworming, we expect greater than 90% reduction of parasites with
5. Consider newer non-anthelmentic, control strategies like planting Lespedeza
pasture mix and incorporating products like bioworma in the ration.
The above control strategies can help to reduce the transmission and effect of the three most common parasites affecting sheep and goats: strongyles, coccidia, monezia
strongyles go by many names: stomach worms, hookworms, haemonghus, barberpole worm, bankrupt worms, thread worms (really a misnomer) and probably others (also probably misnomers).
It is common for producers to overlook coccidia, also called coccidiosis. Standard dewormers won't treat coccidia but it is a common problem, especially in animals under 4 months of age. There seems (at least on common social media platforms) to be a desire among individuals to call coccidia something other than a parasite. Coccidia is a parasite and coccidia treatment requires a dewormer.
Some dewormer options include: corid-readily available over the counter but ineffective at labeled doses. It is appropriate to use, it is not "caustic" as some will claim. Appropriate administration is unlikely to cause a thiamine deficiency (polio). It DOES work and it is legal to use. Under-dosing and inappropriate administration of vitamin B agents along with it would be common reasons for treatment failure.
Sulfadimethoxine can be used to treat coccidia and the use of this medication should be on the advice of a veterinarian exclusively because its use for this purpose constitutes the prescribing of an antibiotic. The inappropriate use of this antibiotic (commonly by small ruminant producers through the advice of well meaning but misinformed resources (like Facebook enthusiasts) is a significant reason for why this antibiotic has been removed from the market.....there are repercussions for producers that don't follow the rules. Laws change as a result and that makes it harder to protect and treat our animals.
Toltrazuril/Baycox is often used to treat coccidiosis. It is purportedly a single treatment option. This medication is NOT FDA approved. Safety issues have been previously reported, including death in horses. It is most certainly used and probably does work (it is licensed in Canada, Australia, Europe) but its application to treatment in the United States is subject to scrutiny to say the least. Food producing animals should NOT be administered Toltrazuril in the United States.
Genetics play a big part in parasite resistance. It is well documented that about 20% of the poorest animals in the herd will harbor about 80% of the parasites. In general, en effective parasite control strategy requires a plan to select for resistance by breeding only those animals who appear most resistant to parasites.
Applying this method to pet livestock is difficult, so it is important to work with our
veterinarians to help overcome these limitations.
In the world of social media (especially here on the DelMarVa Penninsula) there is a readily available supply of advice to be found online. We believe most individuals on these platforms mean well. While we aren't opposed to the exchange of ideas and collaboration between producers, we encourage our clients to understand some key points: we actively monitor the advice being given on these pages (through alternative accounts). We no longer intervene to mitigate harmful advice when found because the site administrators are both hostile and arrogant when we do so. Most are starting the pages to promote their own profit ventures, and they simply lack the basic knowledge required to provide appropriate advice and to keep producers and animals safe. We really caution producers from wholeheartedly accepting the advice of online warriors. Free advice oftentimes becomes very expensive, heart-breaking advice. We are happy to appropriately educate our clients, offering them service when they need it, safe, generally free advice (after establishing a legal VCPR) and direct access to medications.