At present, our vets are seeing a number of Barber’s Pole outbreaks in sheep and goat flocks in the Western Bay of Plenty.

Sheep and goats are susceptible to a number of internal parasites. One worm that can be potentially life threatening to these farmed species is called Barber’s pole (or Haemonchus).

Barber’s Pole is a worm that attaches to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and feeds on blood. It can cause anaemia (low red blood cell count), ill thrift and potentially death when the worm burden is high.

Barber’s Pole worms are quite big and smaller numbers of this worm can be as serious as larger numbers of other worm species. Also the female worm can produce large numbers of eggs in a very short time (10 000 eggs per day!), and the lifecycle can be completed in 10-14 days. Much faster then other worms.

When are the stock at risk of Barber’s Pole?

Stock are especially at risk in prolonged warm, moist conditions between January and April, that allow the L3 larvae to infest pasture and be eaten, where worms then attach to the stomach wall and suck blood.

How do you know if stock have a high parasite burden?

Detection of the parasite relies on clinical signs and include weight loss, inappetence, dull coat, diarrhoea and poor growth in young animals. Infestation can be so severe that death can also occur.

A faecal egg count is a test that can be done to assess the internal parasite burden. It involves testing fresh faeces for the presence of parasite eggs. Routine faecal egg counts can provide a good guide as to how often to drench and what anthelmintic drench would be best.

Take fresh faecal samples to the Vet Clinic for parasite egg counts before and during at risk times.

If in doubt contact your Clinic and we can advise on how and when to do this procedure.

When to drench?

Ideal conditions for this worm are between January and April when it is warm and if there is rain that increases moisture.

Owners should consider doing worm egg counts before this at risk period and certainly during this period to assess parasite burdens in animals. Remember that smaller numbers of Barber’s Pole eggs are as serious as greater numbers in other worms. Worm egg counts tell us when to drench, and follow up worm egg counts let us know if further treatment is needed.

What to drench with?

Genesis ® Ultra – this drench has a long duration of action of up to 42 days.

Or Matrix ® minidose – This does not have a persistent action and follow up faecal samples are important to monitor Worm activity.

Management tips to lower the risk of a parasite problem:

  • Lower stocking rate, less animals in the same area means lower rates of reinfestation.
  • Make sure all new stock have been wormed before entering the property or use a quarantine paddock when they arrive.
  • Rotational grazing of pastures.
  • Use faecal egg counts in July/August and December in young stock, and during at risk autumn time.