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Monday, July 22, 2013

Signs of Barber Pole Worms in Sheep and Goats

with Sue Weaver, Hobby Farms Contributor

One symptom of barber pole worms in goats and sheep is bottle jaw, where fluids accumulate under the jaw. Photo by Sue Weaver (HobbyFarms.com)
Photo by Sue Weaver
One symptom of barber pole worms in goats and sheep is bottle jaw, where fluids accumulate under the jaw.

My Angora goat is anemic due to parasites. The vet says that it’s because the parasites have become immune to most dewormers. What can I do to give my Angora a boost, and is there any way I can avoid using harsh chemical dewormers to keep worm populations down in my goat and sheep herd? —Kendra

Kendra, I’m glad you asked this question. According to people at sheep and goat discussion groups Mom belongs to, lots of goats and sheep are becoming anemic. Some are dying due to parasite overload this year. That’s because prolonged heat and heavy rainfall cause barber pole worms to proliferate. This week, let’s talk about barber pole worms and anemia. Next week, we’ll discuss complementary types of parasite control.

Barber pole worms (Haemonchus contortus) are the most serious parasite of sheep and goats in the United States. Because barber pole worms are bloodsuckers, overloads cause potentially fatal anemia, as well as lower growth rates and greatly reduced reproductive performance.

You can check for barber pole worms in goats and sheep by performing a FAMACHA test, which determines infestation by assessing the color of the animal's eye membranes. Photo by Sue Weaver (HobbyFarms.com)
Photo by Sue Weaver
You can check for barber pole worms in goats and sheep by performing a FAMACHA test, which determines infestation by assessing the color of the animal's eye membranes.

Barber pole worms are 3/4 to 1 inch long and tapered at both ends. Females are red and white stripe—like an old-fashioned barber pole—and males are solid red. They live in the abomasum, or true stomach, of sheep and goats. They’re a worldwide threat but especially troublesome in hot, wet climates.

Sheep and goats ingest barber pole worm larvae while grazing. Lambs and kids don’t have barber pole worms when they’re born, but they can become infected when they start to eat grass. Once ingested, the barber pole worm larvae burrow into the lining of the host animal’s abomasums, where they feed on red blood cells. They molt twice before becoming adult barber pole worms. Female worms lay from 5,000 to 10,000 eggs every day—crazy, huh?! These pass out through feces into the pasture, where eggs hatch and the cycle starts again. 

Adult barber pole worms also feed on their host’s blood, so sheep or goats with heavy worm loads quickly become dangerously anemic. Signs of barber pole worm infestation include diarrhea, dehydration, rough hair coats, incoordination, lethargy, bottle jaw and pale mucus membranes.

Bottle jaw, also called mandibular edema, happens when fluid accumulates under a sheep or goat’s jaw. Fluid also builds up in the animal’s abdomen and gut wall, but you can’t see that with your naked eye. If your goat or sheep gets bottle jaw, he is very close to death, so call your veterinarian without delay! But don’t mistake milk goiter, a benign swelling some kids and hair sheep lambs develop where its jaw meets its throat, for bottle jaw. Bottle jaw is puffy and hangs down from the jaw itself.

There’s an effective test available for detecting barber pole worm infestation in sheep. A less formal way is to monitor your goat or sheep for barber pole infestation is to check the membranes around its eyes at least every other week during the hot, damp summer months and monthly the rest of the year. South African livestock specialists developed a diagnostic procedure called FAMACHA that you can learn by attending a FAMACHA clinic, but you can run a basic test without FAMACHA training (see video below). Put one hand over your animal’s face and the other under his jaw, and use your thumbs to pull the tissue around his eyes up and down, taking a quick peek at the color inside his lower eyelid. It should be red to very rosy pink. If it’s pink to pale pink, your sheep or goat is anemic, and if it’s white, he needs to be wormed and see his vet right away.

Anemia can set in very quickly. Because it’s been so hot here in the Ozarks, Mom and Dad checked us goats’ and the sheep’s eye membranes two days ago and a bunch of us needed to be dewormed, even though our usual checkup is more than a month away! Checking eye membranes is easy—do it often and it could save your animal’s life.

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Signs of Barber Pole Worms in Sheep and Goats

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Reader Comments
Hi, crisis info needed pls. Had 4 purebred, registered older Finnsheep lambs imported to my small farm in Georgia from 2 different flocks from NY State, complete with interstate health certificates etc., at great expense - Upon arrival, all were thin under their fleece (But I didn't realize, with all the commotion and fascination of their actual arrival, until I dug my fingers down into the wonderful crimpy soft fleece the next morning and felt bones). Over the next days it was obvious they were declining. Of the 2 pairs(ewes from one farm, the rams lambs from another)one ram and one ewe are now known to be seriously ill.

We had been advised to watch for the symptoms of Barber Pole Worm, and when we saw the symptoms a few days later and got vet care, the fecal showed a 'low' or mild egg count - Yet one ewe and one ram are both very anemic. Out of proportion to the infestation if that's all it is, and since they had just been wormed, they it made no sense. (Vet wormed them again anyway).

I kept telling the emergency vets about the swollen muzzle on one of the ewes but they never answered me or seemed to take note of my concern. So I started looking for info. My own research indicates they are (also?) suffering from BTV or Blue Tongue Virus (it seems the swelling under the jaw is common to both maladies).

FYI the ewes are at my farm, the rams at my business partner's farm miles away - Yet this is showing up in BOTH situations. 'His' ewe here and 'his' ram there. 'My' pair are both holding their own but not perfect - 'My' ewe at my farm is in the best shape relatively speaking, maybe because I discovered the issue first and began aggressive supplementation to shore-up her resistance. So it's not just poor husbandry on my part (which had been my initial fear).

I am spending hundreds of dollars and weeks of intensive hand feeding, supplements, shots of b-complex/thiamine and steroids etc etc etc etc - But this can go on, it seems, for month to come.

ADVICE, PLEASE - These lambs could still be lost at any time - Insights, warnings or other feedback urgently requested. I've invested a lot of money (which was a real sacrifice of love and hope on my part) to purchase this seed flock, and I am not in the financial position to be able to start again should I lose them.

I love the sheep and very much want to continue with sheep, if I can just get them past this.
Birdpond, Winder, GA
Posted: 10/11/2015 10:47:50 AM
I have had serious problems with people calling me that own alpacas
They buy goates, Sheep, pigs chickens cows and think everything will just be okay
Well that's not True alpacas and goats don't need to pass worms to each other and keep worming the animals constantly... Separate your animals stop the contamination by grazing and cutting and feeding your fields. I know people may not agree but cydectin kills all and it has been given orally to kill all parisites and separate your animals . Cydectin is exsteemly strong and should only be used by COMPETENT people given the weight of the animal. If you don't have scales DON'T do it be responsible if you have a heavy load of worms you will deal with this problem until your fields and animals are clean.
Rex, Tylertow, MS
Posted: 6/22/2014 5:53:29 AM
Very helpful . I have lost 4goats to this worm in the last month
June, Spraggs, PA
Posted: 8/23/2013 10:09:10 AM
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