somewhat increasing problem with parasite  control in various livestock, including llamas and alpacas, is the development of drug resistance in worms.  With llamas and alpacas, this is probably even more prevalent by those farms that must administer a monthly Ivermectin treatment as a preventative for Meningeal Worm. 

The primary prevention of parasite control always starts with good herd management.  A good nutritional program and an awareness of the overall health of your animals should be at the top of your list.  Parasites are more likely to seek out and attack weak or compromised animals.  A general lethargy, weight loss, a depressed stance with a humped back, and ball or ploppy stools, rather than pellets, are all signs of possible internal parasites.  Good sanitation, pasture rotation, and the weather also play a big role in the control of parasites on your farm.  Increased attention to possible parasite problems is always needed in periods of extended wet weather.  Barns and pastures should be cleaned regularly and hay and grain should always be fed off the ground and away from manure piles.  Out in dry, sunny areas of the pasture, larvae in manure tends to dry up. But wet shaded areas require additional attention as larvae in manure in these areas may survive for months.  Even winter weather does not defeat some species.  Some infective larvae can even become dormant over the winter, surviving temperatures to twenty degrees below zero, and then become infective again about one month after pastures begin new growth in the spring. 

De-worming programs vary for different areas of the country since various species of worms may be prevalent only in certain areas.  Again, the weather in your part of the country also plays a big part in what you may need to treat for on your farm.   

Previously it has always been recommended to treat all the animals on your farm when de-worming.  However, parasitologists now believe that this common practice is one of the most important factors responsible for the development of de-wormer resistance.  The animals in our herds do not all have an even worm distribution.  Only 20-30% carry 70-80% of the worms and these animals are the ones mainly responsible for contaminating the pastures with parasite larvae for all the other animals.  If breeders could identify those animals and only treat the ones that actually need de-worming, they would save money and greatly reduce the drug resistance.  This could be done with regular fecal checks on each animal in our herd.  Regular fecal checks would allow us to identify the actual worm and administer only the correct treatment and dosage to only those animals that need it. 

For the blood-sucking barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus), which has been a severe problem in various areas of our llama and alpaca population, a new system called FAMACHA has been developed in South Africa and has been validated in the U.S.  Since anemia is the primary effect from infection with the barber pole worm, often resulting in death, a simple and reliable test for anemia has been needed.  The FAMACHA method provides this test to identify anemic animals.  Breeders regularly check the mucous membranes around animalís eyes and compare the membrane color to color illustrations on a chart.  The chart portrays various levels of anemia.  Only the animals scored as anemic are then treated which results in fewer treatments, money saved, and slowing the development of a resistance to de-wormers.  Itís reported not to be a difficult system to learn, but one that should be taught by a certified person.

Barber Pole Worm (Haemonchus contortus)
This blood-sucking parasite thrives in warm, wet weather.  Grazing animals ingest larvae on forages that are relatively short.  Early to mid-morning forages contain the most larvae on its moist, dew covered tips.  An adult female can consume 200 microliters of blood daily.  Outbreaks are worst when warm summer rains create a wet environment for the hatched larvae.  During very cold conditions or drought, the majority of larvae become dormant or die.

 With increased reports of drug resistant worms in all parts of the country, perhaps it would be advantageous to re-evaluate our own de-worming program with our veterinarian.  We can certainly appreciate the information that has come from the various farms around the country that have shared their experiences and increased our awareness of this important concern in ruminants.

This article, written by Marilyn Nenni, appeared in the Hoosier Hummer newsletter in 2006.

Watch Formacha Scoring from Purdue University

Comparing the eye membrane with
the Famacha chart.

FAMACHA scoring to identify parasite risk in small ruminants

Small ruminants are highly susceptible to gastrointestinal parasites.  Parasites thrive when  weather is moist and mild. In the past, producers were advised to administer aggressive preventative deworming treatment to maintain livestock health. Unfortunately, doing so caused resistance to all classes of deworming drugs. Today, herdsmen are encouraged to selectively deworm only those animals that require treatment. Selective treatment is better for animals, decreases drug resistance and helps keep pastures clean.

Barber Pole Worm - (Haemonchus contortus)

Barber pole worm is the most prevalent parasite infestation in small ruminants. Sheep and goats ingest the grass-dwelling nematode on pasture. Eggs are excreted in feces. Larvae hatch  and climb to the top of grass; grass is eaten and the cycle continues.

FAMACHA Chart. (GNU Free Documentation License; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License)


FAMACHA scoring identifies anemia in small ruminants, the main symptom of barberís pole worm infestation. Dr. Faffa Malan developed a five color FAMACHA scoring chart that corresponds to a sheep or goatís bottom eyelid color. Pale pink to white indicates anemia; the animal should be dewormed. Robust red to salmon pink indicates the animal does not require deworming at time of test.

FAMACHA is an effective and easy-to-use tool that everyone from backyard hobbyists to large-scale producers can use on the farm.

When diagnosing livestock keep in mind an animal may be anemic for another reason besides parasite infestation. Also, FAMACHA only diagnoses barberís pole worm infestations. Other worm infestations are not indicated using this tool.

Indicators of parasite infestations in livestock include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Visible worms
  • Bottle jaw
  • Too thin, poor body condition
  • Dull coat
  • Lethargic

Additional prevention strategies

There are several other ways herdsmen can decrease parasite infestations, treatment frequency, drug resistance and pasture contamination.

  • Fecal egg counts
  • Pasture rotation
  • Let dew dry before letting animals out to pasture
  • Good health recordkeeping
  • Proper deworming dosage based on accurate weights
  • Cull animals requiring frequent treatment
  • Improve herd/ flock genetics
  • Use FAMACHA scoring at least once a month, more frequently during mild and moist weather

From Farm and Dairy website


Parasites & Llamas  *  Gastrointestinal Parasites in Camelids - Resistant to Dewormers
Deworming For Llamas  *  Life Cycles Of Parasites
About Whipworms
  *  Meningeal Worm  *  About Lice & Mange  *  Mites, Mange, & Treatment
Persistent Pesky Parasites   *  About Famacha  * A
bout E Mac


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