Using the 5-Point Health Check in Angora Goats

As stewards of the land and the animals who call the farm home, we must strive to ensure the health and vitality of our caprine partners. One way we do this is by routinely checking the herd for signs of parasitism, both internal and external. The 5-point check is a method developed in South Africa by the Boer Farmers to ensure that their stock remained healthy and hardy in a harsh environment.  The check includes specific areas of the goat: eyes, jaw, coat, back, and butt. Let’s get into the importance of each and what we’re looking for.

The eyes play a major role in the 5-point check and we’re looking for two things specifically. Externally you want to be looking for bright, clear eyes free of discharge. If there’s a discharge, is it cloudy, sticky, or clear? Just as humans suffer occasionally from seasonal irritants, so too can our goats. Along with a quick check of the eyes themselves, an understanding of FAMACHA is helpful. In reviewing the state of the mucous membranes of the eyes, a herdsman can decide whether there is a need to treat barber pole, or Haemonchus contortus, a particularly nasty internal parasite which can cause severe anemia in it’s host.

 While in the vicinity of the eyes, take a look at your goat’s jawline. Here we are specifically looking for any edema or “bottle jaw.” This is interstitial fluid, an indicator of anemia, and is generally caused by internal parasites including liver flukes.

In checking the coat of an Angora or any other goat we are looking for a healthy luster to the fiber, as well as parting the fibers and checking for hidden hitchhikers. Dull, flaky hair may indicate internal parasitism which can draw down the goat’s nutritional plane. Hitchhikers like lice and mites can lead to bloodborne illnesses and general ill-health.

Moving on to the back, or more specifically, the loin area of our goats, we want to consider the overall body condition score. This is an area of interest on the goat for a number of reasons, but for our purposes, it may be helpful in deciding whether we are going to deworm or not based on other things we’ve seen in our progressive review of the goat. A goat that scores a “3” via FAMACHA may not need to be treated if she is in good flesh, but if she seems to be losing condition, we may opt to treat.

The last step in the 5 Point check is to take a look at the goat’s rear. Here we are looking for dags, or fecal material around the bum, which may indicate a current or recent bought of diarrhea in the individual. This is of greater concern in young kids as they can become severely dehydrated very quickly if left untreated. Reasons for diarrhea could be a simple as a recent change in diet, or as troubling as an outbreak of coccidia.

After reviewing and carefully recording the observations an educated decision can be made in regards to treatment going forward. A bright-eyed, vibrant goat, with a FAMACHA score of 1, a healthy degree of condition, and no dags can be sent on their merry way, while the dull-eyed, skinny goat with a dirty rear can be properly treated.