What is the FAMACHA© system and how do I get a card?


FAMACHA© is a color eye chart that estimates the level of anemia (blood loss) in sheep/goats (and camelids). Anemia is the primary symptom of barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) infection. It is also a symptom of liver fluke disease.

The FAMACHA© card displays five color and treatment categories. Each corresponds to a packed cell volume (PCV) or range. PCV is the percentage of red blood cells in the blood. A FAMACHA© score of 1 (red) is indicative of an animal with a healthy or "high" PCV (>28%), whereas a FAMACHA© score of 5 (white) denotes an animal with a very low or "deadly" PCV (<12%).

It is recommended that sheep/goats with FAMACHA© scores of 4 or 5 always be dewormed with effective drugs. Sheep/goats with FAMACHA© scores of 1 or 2 do not usually require deworming unless other signs of parasitism are observed. Sheep/goats with FAMACHA© scores of 3 may or may not need deworming, depending upon other criteria and factors. Goats, periparturient females, and lambs/kids are the category 3s most likely to require deworming.

Sheep/goats should be FAMACHA© scored every 1 to 3 weeks during peak H. contortus transmission season. Outside the months of peak transmission, animals can be checked with less frequency. Depending upon climate, it may not be necessary to check animals in some months (e.g., winter). FAMACHA© scoring should always be done in full sunlight, being careful not to shade the eye when scoring. The FAMACHA© card should always be used for scoring. It should not be copied. The card should be stored in a dark place when it is not being used. It may be necessary to replace the card every year or two. Cards are inexpensive.

Proper FAMACHA© technique is essential and the main reason why training is mandatory. The phrase "COVER-PUSH-PULL-POP" has been adopted to teach proper FAMACHA© scoring technique. COVER the upper eyelid. PUSH down on the eyelid. PULL down the lower eyelid. The mucous membranes will POP into view. You should not try to expose the membranes simply by pulling down on the lower eyelid. It is important not to score the inner surface of the lower eyelid, but rather to score the bed of mucous membranes. It is recommended that you score both eyes. Half scores are not used. When in doubt, you should always use the higher score.

Producers must take an approved training in order to get a FAMACHA© card. The University of Georgia is the sole distributor of FAMACHA© cards in the US. Veterinarians may purchase FAMACHA© cards without training, though training is still recommended. Check with your local county extension office or state small ruminant specialist for training opportunities. Check here for a list of certified FAMACHA© instructors. If you cannot find a workshop in your area, online FAMACHA© certification is an option.

The FAMACHA© system was developed by South African researchers in response to dewormer resistance. The system has been validated for sheep, goats, and camelids in the United States.


Additional resources
How and when to do FAMACHA© scoring - University of Rhode Island
FAMACHA© scoring: COVER, PUSH, PULL, POP (video)
FAMACHA© links: American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control