Do’s and don’ts of FAMACHA scoring

To implement this system properly, you will need to obtain practical hands-on instruction in its use.

Do’s and don’ts of FAMACHA scoring
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FAMACHA (FAffa MAlan CHArt) is a method whereby only certain sheep or goats in a flock are selected for treatment against wireworm (Haemonchus contortus).

It was developed by Drs Francois Malan, Gareth Bath and Jan van Wyk to combat anthelmintic resistance. Sheep are selected for treatment based on the degree of anaemia in their mucous membranes.

This is assessed against a colour chart, but has to be done accurately.

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Check frequently to be certain
If fewer than 10% of your herd or flock score in FAMACHA categories 4 or 5, check every two weeks during peak wireworm transmission season. Susceptible animals can deteriorate rapidly when worm numbers are high. Outside of the months of peak transmission, when temperatures are cooler, this interval can be extended to three to four weeks if really required.

Remember, however, that ewes and does may develop problems with wireworm if the parasites resume development during the lambing/kidding season. So it’s best not to take a chance, and check the animals more often. If over 10% of the flock/herd score in categories 4 or 5, recheck weekly. Above all, don’t wait until a problem develops to check animals with your FAMACHA card.

Natural light
Always check eyes outside in natural light. If you have to do it in a shed, use direct, natural light that comes in through a door or window in the morning or afternoon. Never score the animals in the shade or under artificial light.

Get the method right – don’t take short cuts
Use the FAMACHA scoring technique to expose the lower eye mucous membranes (see panel below) and match them to the equivalent colour on the FAMACHA card. Repeat the process with the other eye as it may be different. To err on the side of caution, use the higher score.

Don’t try to expose the membranes by simply pulling down the lower eyelid.

Avoid using half numbers. Always round up to the nearest whole number.

Looking after the card

  • Store the FAMACHA card in a dark place when not in use. The colours will fade rapidly if the card is left in the sun.
  • Replace the card after 12 to 24 months of use. This varies depending on use and storage conditions.
  • Keep a spare card in a dark location away from light.
  • Never try to score from your memory of the colours.
  • Do not print the card off the Internet – the colours will be inaccurate.

The proper FAMACHA technique
‘Cover, push, pull, pop’ is the four-step process describing the proper FAMACHA technique:

  • Cover the eye by rolling the upper eyelid down over the eyeball.
  • Push down on the eyeball. An easy way to tell if you’re using enough pressure is if the eyelashes of the upper eyelid curl up over your thumb.
  • Pull down the lower eyelid.
  • The mucous membranes will pop into view. Score the bed of mucous membranes, not the inner surface of the lower eyelid.

For more information, contact the Ruminant Veterinary Association of South Africa, part of the SA Veterinary Association, at

Source: Katherine Petersson, PhD, Associate Professor of Animal Science, University of Rhode Island (