News: Panjshir Sheep Parasite Project Continues
Story by Senior Airman Amber Ashcraft
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – No matter what area of Afghanistan traveled, flocks of sheep and livestock are seen grazing, walking the roads and moving on mountain sides. Agriculture is a key aspect of the country, and with this in mind, U.S. military agribusiness development teams throughout Afghanistan are designated to train and assist the country’s veterinarians and farmers.
After months of preparation, the Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II, a tenant unit with the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team, began a parasite sheep project in Anaba District in early February, continuing on into Rokha and Khenj Districts.
“No matter where the animals are, here, or in the U.S., keeping a good study of flocks of sheep will allow us to determine the correct treatments and keep a better record of the benefits reaped from the treatment,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Hancock, assistant Panjshir agricultural lead for Kentucky ADT II.
The Kentucky ADT tagged, weighed, physically examined and collected feces samples from approximately 120 pregnant sheep throughout the province. Half of the controlled sheep were given fluke and de-wormer to treat and control both gastro-intestinal and pulmonary infections.
“De-worming ewes two to three weeks before lambing is an effective way to reduce transmission of parasites to the lambs,” said Hancock, Monticello, Ky., native. “They’re in better condition at lambing and produce more milk.”
After visiting each district, the team immediately sent the feces samples to the Bagram Airfield lab where a partner veterinarian examined and determined the type and how many parasite eggs were present in the pregnant sheep. Ten days after the initial visit, ADT members returned to the districts for another examination.
“It’s a very productive project for the farmers of Afghanistan,” said Afghan Dr. Noor Ali, a Panjshir veterinarian. “The data collected will allow us to show the Panjshir farmers that de-worming their sheep is one of the easiest ways to keep their sheep healthy.”
Internal parasites are a threat to sheep health and productivity, added Hancock.
“The parasites cause the loss of large quantities of blood and protein, which results in weakness and anemia,” Hancock said. “We use the Famacha score card on the eyelids to determine the level of infection. Even if the sheep have a good body score and appear healthy, the build-up of the number of parasites may cause the sheep to lose blood and become very sick.”
The Kentucky ADT II began the project showing the veterinarians and farmers how to examine and de-worm their sheep. In the end, the veterinarians and farmers learned to care for the health of the flock on their own.
“Just as every other project we help with in Afghanistan, we want the Afghans to continue to progress on their own,” Hancock said.
On April 5 and 6, U.S. Army Col. James G. Floyd, Kentucky ADT II veterinarian, and Shreveport, La., native, is scheduled to hold a discussion on the project’s results. Floyd will explain the data generated and the practical payoff from the project to the veterinarians, district extension agents, farmers and herders involved in the project.
Floyd will explain the next steps to using the scientific data collected and also have an open lab about the procedures for finding the results from the fecal samples that were sent to the Bagram Airfield lab.
“Showing the Afghans the results and how we keep records will be a major benefit,” Hancock said. “They’ll be able to keep track of their flock’s health and history much better than before, hopefully taking to heart the benefits of this project.”