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Barber’s pole worm

Current weather conditions make it time to be on the lookout for barber’s pole worm.

Having some knowledge of this parasite (Haemonchus contortus), and its debilitating effect on sheep mobs, is vital to combatting the disease. Barber’s pole is a worm named for its red and white striped appearance, the red being the blood it has sucked from the abomasal lining of sheep. Significant burdens will affect production or remove enough blood to kill lambs and (less often) adult sheep.

It is a seasonal worm which can overwinter in low numbers in sheep then features as disease outbreaks. These can seem to happen quickly in summer and autumn with rain or heavy dew during or after a hot dry spell. These worms can produce thousands of eggs per day and given ideal sub-tropical conditions can grow to infective larvae in just one week.

Sheep, particularly lambs, need to be observed for classical anaemia signs like lethargy and paleness of the eyes and gums. If you are handling lambs, look for paleness of the eye membranes (the pink tissue under the lower lid is easiest to look at and is normally a salmon pink colour). Gums can be hard to assess as they often look pale, even in healthy lambs. Other signs in affected animals may be ill-thrift (can be seen as a large tail-end), rapid shallow breathing, animals lagging at the end of the mob and collapsed or dead animals. It is not typical for barber’s pole to cause a scour.

Correct timing of drenching and weather observation are important management factors. Barber’s pole is easy to kill but given its short reproductive cycle sheep can become reinfected quickly. We have a range of drenches available in store including products with closantel or moxidectin as single actives or combinations that have persistent activity against barber’s pole. Please contact us for further advice on what is suitable for your situation.

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