What is the Five Point Check©?


The Five Point Check© is decision-making tool for determining the need to deworm small ruminants. It builds on the FAMACHA© system, which only works for blood-feeding parasites such as the barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus). The Five Point Check© adds criteria for the other parasites that commonly affect small ruminants, including those that cause digestive disturbances and snotty noses.

The Five Point Check© includes five check points on the animal's body: 1) eye; 2) jaw; 3) back; 4) tail; and 5) nose. You check the eye to determine FAMACHA© score. Sheep/goats with FAMACHA© scores of 4 or 5 should be dewormed with effective drugs, whereas sheep/goats with FAMACHA© scores of 1 or 2 usually do not require treatment unless other signs of parasitism are observed. Sheep/goats with FAMACHA© scores of 3 may or may not need dewormed based on other critiera and factors.

You check the jaw to see if the animal has sub-mandibular edema, i.e., "bottle jaw." Bottle jaw is an accumulation of fluid under the jaw. It is another symptom of barber pole worm infection (and liver fluke infection). All animals with bottle jaw should be dewormed; however, bottle jaw does not develop in the majority of animals that are clinically parasitized.

The back checkpoint is for body condition score (BCS). Body condition score is a measure of the relative fatness of an animal. Various studies have shown it to be a reliable indicator of parasitism in adult animals. Sheep/goats are body condition scored using a scale of 1 to 5, with half scores utilized. 1 is emaciated, 3 is average, and 5 is obese. Animals with poor body condition scores (2 or lower) are less able to cope with a parasite challenge and usually require deworming.

Another checkpoint is the tail or hindquarters. The tail should be examined for evidence of scouring (diarrhea). Feces usually accumulate on the backsides (tails, legs, and hocks) of animals that have or had diarrhea. There are several parasites that can cause diarrhea including Teladorsagia, Trichostrongylus, Strongyloides, and Nematodirus. Fecal soiling is usually assessed using a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 representing no fecal soiling and 5 respresenting very severe diarrhea. In areas where the worms that cause scours are prevalent, treatment is usually considered for moderate soiling (score 3).

The nose is another checkpoint. It is looked at to see if there is nasal discharge. A clear or purulent nasal discharge may be indicative of nasal bots, flies that lay eggs in the nasal passages of sheep/goats. An additional critiera is often considered for goats: hair coat. A poor or rough hair coat can be indicative of parasitism.

While the primary cause of anemia (poor FAMACHA© score) and bottle jaw is parasites, there are other things that can cause poor body condition, diarrhea, and a rough hair coat. Poor body condition could be caused by poor nutrition. Diarrhea could be the result of stress or diet. For this reason, it's important to look at the criteria of the Five Point Check© collectively to make deworming decisions.

In addition to considering the damage caused by worms other than blood feeders, the Five Point Check© is useful for making deworming decisions for animals with FAMACHA© scores of 3. For example, a sheep/goat with a FAMACHA© score of 3 should be dewormed if it has bottle jaw, poor body condition, and/or moderate to severe diarrhea.

The Five Point Check© was developed by the same South African researchers who developed the FAMACHA© system.


Additional reading
Targeted selective treatment of sheep using the Five Point Check©