#VideoVet: How to decrease worm woes


High worm burdens can lead to severe production losses due to poor weight gain, high treatment costs or even direct animal losses. Managing your herd by monitoring the worm burden, is an easy and cost-effective means of prevention through building a parasite resistant herd or flock.

Dr Gillian Declercq, community state veterinarian with the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD), says there are two types of worms. The first are intestinal worms that affect the gut and feeds directly off the food eaten by the animal. They can cause diarrhoea and severe weight loss. As the animal loses weight, it loses protein which causes a soft jelly-like bag under the jaw, known as bottle jaw.

“The other type of worm is blood suckers, that attach to the inside of the intestine or stomach lining and suck blood from the animal,” she explains. As the animal loses blood, it becomes anaemic and weak, does not grow and, if not attended to, can die.

How to check for worms?

The five-point check is used to check for worm burdens in livestock. Checking all five points is important to determine whether worms are present, and can also give an indication of whether it is intestinal worms:

  1. Check the nose for nasal discharge.
  2. Check the mucous membrane in the eye for anaemia.
  3. Check the jaw for bottle jaw.
  4. Take a condition score on the back/loin area.
  5. Check the rear for signs of diarrhoea.

It is important to check animals weekly in summer, and every second week in winter, and to treat accordingly.

The FAMACHA© system

The FAMACHA© chart, developed by Drs Francois Malan, Gareth Bath and Jan van Wyk, is a scoring system used to determine how anaemic or pale an animal is, by looking at the colour of its mucous membrane in the eye. “We look at the inner-bottom of the eyelid and compare the colour to that of the FAMACHA© scorecard.”

This check is important in order to assess the severity of the worm infestation or how well the animal is coping with the worms it is exposed to. It makes economic sense to only treat those animals that need assistance. Regularly blanket-treating an entire flock with a dewormer can result in the development of resistance against the product.

Understanding the FAMACHA© chart

A score of 1 or 2 (a nice red-pink mucous membrane) shows that the animal is healthy and does not need treatment. If the membrane has a white or almost white coloration, a score of 4 or 5 shows the presence of bloodsucking worms and that your animal should be treated.

For accurate colour scoring using the FAMACHA© card, the cards must be kept out of sunlight and internet examples should preferably not be used. Order your card from the Ruminant Veterinary Association of South Africa at www.ruvasa.co.za, or the Livestock Health and Production group at 012 529 8038.

Treating for worms

“When choosing a deworming product, pay attention to the encircled numbers on the label, which indicate the active ingredient group in the product. It is recommended that you use one active ingredient per year.”

Keep tabs on how your animals respond to these treatments. Do this through weekly checks using the five-point check. “Should your animals continue showing high worm burdens after treatment, it is wise to perform a faecal egg count reduction test. Your veterinarian will collect samples and check whether the products you are using have resistance on your farm. Pharmaceutical companies will often assist you in getting a product that will work on your farm.” – Marike Brits, Stockfarm

This article is the third in a series of informative animal health articles. The series walks hand in hand with the #VideoVet video series. Watch the video below.

For more information, contact your MSD Animal Health representative or phone 011 923 9300. (ZA/ORUM/0218/0003e)

Thank you for the support of several role-players in creating this series: the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Gillian Declercq and the CCS veterinarians (Dr Lindsay Parvess and Dr Heidi Kuhn), MSD Animal Health, as well as Kenneth Ndlovu and the Amogelang team for their assistance and animals for demonstration.

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