Conjunctival mucous membrane colour as an indicator for the targeted selective treatment of haemonchosis and of the general health status of peri-urban smallholder goats in southern Malawi.

Neil Sargison, Stella Mazeri, L. Gamble, F Lohr, Patrick Chikungwa, Julius Chulu, K.T Hunsberger, N Jourdan,, A Shah, J Burden Bailey,

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The world’s growing population is becoming increasingly centred around large cities, affording opportunities for peri-urban food production. Goats are well-suited to conversion of resources that are available in peri-urban settings into meat and occasionally milk. Haemonchus contortus has been described as “the nemesis of small ruminant production systems in tropical and subtropical regions”; hence control of haemonchosis through planned animal health management affords a pragmatic first step in improving the production efficiency of peri-urban goats. This study of peri-urban goat production investigated the potential value of targeted selective treatment of haemonchosis. 452 peri-urban goat keepers in southern Malawi were visited during three seasonal periods with relevance to the epidemiology of haemonchosis. 622, 599 and 455 individually identified goats were clinically examined during the dry season, the rainy season, and shortly after the end of the rainy season, respectively. Data were recorded for sex, age, weight, conjunctival mucous membrane colour score (FAMACHAã), body condition score (BCS) and faecal worm egg count (FEC); and where possible for pregnancy and lactation status. Animals with pale ocular mucous membranes were treated with 10 mg/kg albendazole, then re-examined 14 days later. Animals with pink mucous membranes, but FECs ≥250 eggs per gram were also re-examined and treated 14 days later. The results show high variability in growth rates deduced from the ages and bodyweights of each of 999 goats at the time of their enrolment. FAMACHA© scores alone were a poor index for the targeted selective treatment of haemonchosis, because they failed to identify too many animals that would have required treatment at different times of year and using different FAMACHAã and FEC cut-offs. Combining the indices of FAMACHA© scores ≥4, body condition scores ≥2, and age >18 months was more reliable in identifying those animals requiring treatment when different epidemiologicallyrelevant FEC thresholds for different seasons were taken into account. Inclusion of late pregnancy or early lactation status would have resulted in very few animals requiring treatment being missed. The use of conjunctival mucous membrane colour scoring in this way provided a valuable insight of the general health status of the peri-urban goats, to create opportunities for planned animal health management to improve productivity. The efficacy of albendazole treatment was poor, putatively due to drug resistance, or poor drug bioavailability in goats. In summary, our study shows opportunities for better production efficiency in peri-urban goats, and demonstrates the value of simple clinical diagnostic indices as decision support tools in planned animal health management.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Early online date7 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Dec 2020


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