Why check worm burdens in goats?
Checking worm burdens with a WormTest is essential for correct and timely drenching decisions and to confirm that your worm control program is on track. The result is healthy goats, without unnecessary drenching.
WormTests are the best basis for drenching decisions:
- To confirm whether signs of ill-health are likely to be due to worms. Many signs are not specific to worms, e.g. weight loss and poor growth rates, a weaker tail group lagging behind the others, scouring and possibly deaths. These signs occur well after production losses from worms are occurring in the herd.
- To check whether worm burdens are causing production loss, even though signs of worms are not present. Reduced weight gains and fibre growth occur well before signs of ill-health are seen.
- To show whether the number of worm eggs being passed onto pasture is too high for a particular time of year.
- To give early warning to prevent significant production losses (or where barber’s pole worm exists, the risk of deaths).
Drenching based on WormTests is also the most cost-effective ongoing option for worm control in this region, as unnecessary drenching is expensive in both drench and labour costs, and contributes to the development of drench resistance.
How are worm burdens tested?
1. Using a WormTest
- Checking worm burdens throughout the year with a WormTest is a critical part of the WormBoss worm control program. Most WormTests are done through a laboratory.
- Worm egg counts (but usually not larval cultures) can be done by producers if they have the equipment and skills. Ideally, producers should have their preparation and counting technique reviewed by an accredited laboratory and perform ongoing quality control checks, just like an accredited laboratory to ensure their results are correct.
- Seek professional advice where worm egg count results are not simple to interpret.
2. Checking on farm
Where it is not practical to conduct WormTests, FAMACHA (for barber’s pole worm only), Body Condition Scoring (see Table 3 of Goat BCS -DPI Vic) and scouring can be used to indicate if treatment is required.
- For FAMACHA, check the conjunctiva (inside the lower eyelid). Normal healthy goats have a dark pink to red conjunctiva. Goats suffering from anaemia, which can occur with barber’s pole worm and liver fluke, will have paler membranes; in severe cases they can be almost white. The FAMACHA© scoring system evaluates the level of anaemia in the individual animal.
- For BCS, check the back region—use the lumbar vertebra for condition scoring in meat goats. A condition score of 2.5–3.0 is desirable, while a score of 2.0 is too low, and above a score of 3.5 is too high. Does need to be in condition score 3.0 at kidding.
- Scouring. The consistency of faeces can indicate the need for treatment, however, there are other common causes of scouring. Look for watery (score 5) diarrhoea.
When using anthelmintic products in goats, a veterinary prescription is often required because goats require a different dose rate and withholding period than specified on most products, even for many registered goat drenches. Most sheep drenches are useful, but not registered for use in goats.
While cattle drenches can be used at the label rates on goats in South Australia and sheep drenches on goats in Victoria, a veterinary prescription is still required for use at the dose rates recommended for goats.
When should WormTests and drenches be routinely done?
WormTests can be done at any time; however, there are certain routine times to WormTest, shown below. Use the results from the Drench Decision Guides – Goats to decide whether to drench and when other WormTests should be done. A larval culture (larval differentiation) with the WormTest is particularly useful in areas or seasons in which summer rainfall occurs and barber’s pole worm is a risk.
Routine WormTest times
- Before goats are in the yards for management purposes a WormTest should be considered.
- Does prior to kid marking and weaning and then WormTest at 4–6 week (summer) or 6–8 week (winter) intervals after a short-acting drench. There are no persistent drenches registered for use in goats.
- Kids from weaning to their first kidding: WormTest at 4–6 week (summer) or 6–8 week (winter) intervals after a short-acting drench.
- Bring forward WormTests if there has been significant rain (20+ mm) that also has follow-up rain (10+ mm) in the following few weeks. Do separate tests for adults and weaners.
- Bucks: WormTest at 4–6 week (summer) or 6–8 week (winter) intervals after a short-acting drench and ensure a WormTest occurs one month before joining.
- Dry adult goats should still be monitored at 4–8 week intervals.
- If DrenchTest results are not available, conduct a DrenchCheck 14 days after treatment.
- And at other non-routine times as suggested in the Drench Decision Guide.
If you have only a small herd of goats, WormTests can be supplemented with monthly body condition scoring and checking the FAMACHA© score at weekly (summer) and monthly (winter) intervals. Records should be kept of which goats require drenching and the worst of these animals culled.
Routine drench times
Some drenches are strategic and are given for either of two purposes.
- At a critical time to reduce worm larval contamination of a pasture for the benefit of the whole mob or herd rather than just for the treated animals.
- Irrespective of worm egg count at times when goats are expected to be more susceptible to worm infection.
Use an effective registered short-acting drench and follow label instructions when treating for worms.
- Pregnant does just prior to kidding when they enter their kidding paddock. Kidding is often at times when the worm challenge is about to rise and kidding does, which experience a temporary loss of immunity during lactation, can contribute to a large increase in paddock contamination and are a source of ongoing infection for themselves and their kids.
- If kidding is spread out over months and does are not separated from the rest of the herd, still give a pre-kidding drench to individual does 4 weeks prior to kidding if due dates are known. However, this pre-kidding drench will not be as effective as when the doe was drenched and moved to a low worm-risk paddock.
- Kids at weaning: weaned kids are highly susceptible to worms, mainly due to the stress of weaning. Drenching at weaning will help weaners to achieve the growth rates needed for survival.
- Drench individual goats showing obvious signs of worm-related illness and WormTest the rest of the goat herd.
- At other times, use the results of a WormTest in the Drench Decision Guide.
In all cases, use a drench known to be effective on your property. Preferably use a short-acting treatment, and where possible, use a multi-active combination drench. Single active drenches may be used sequentially, i.e. up the race with one drench and then up the race with the other.
After drenching, move the goats into low worm-risk paddocks that have been managed for goat grazing.
The use of vaccination against barber’s pole worm
A vaccine to protect against barber’s pole worm is available for sheep but is not registered for use in goats. Trials using the vaccine in goats have provided variable protection indicating the vaccine may not always be effective. In sheep, the vaccine provides a major alternative to drench-based control and will help manage drench resistance. If you wish to consider its use in goats, you will need to discuss the pros and cons of its off-label use with your veterinarian and obtain an off-label prescription.
You can read more here: Barbervax® vaccine in goats.
When are other WormTests done and drenches given?
The timing of WormTests and drenches will vary between farms and seasons. Use the Drench Decision Guide to weigh up important factors when deciding when to drench or WormTest on your property. These factors include signs of worms, time since last drench, WormTest results, recent rainfall, and condition of animals and pastures/browse.
If drenching is done for other reasons (such as an early drench before holidays or harvesting), use the Drench Decision Guide to decide when to drench or WormTest again.
What samples should be collected for WormTests?
Animals do not need to be yarded for a WormTest. Collect warm fresh dung from the paddock (but make sure that samples from does are not combined with those of their kids).
To conduct a WormTest obtain WormTest kits or sample collection details from your testing laboratory or advisor.
If you do your own worm egg counts, use the bulk sampling method where dung is collected into a single container.
- Collect 3 pellets per pile of dung from at least 20 individuals if the mob has fewer than 200 animals and at least from 40 individual dung piles from larger mobs.
- Choose pellets of equal size so that each animal is equally represented.
- If dung consistency is runny, use a plastic spoon. Don’t avoid runny or soft dung.
- Collect doe and kid samples separately.
Avoid delays in transit (when worm eggs can hatch) by collecting and posting early in the week. Also ensure samples are kept cool (refrigerate but do not freeze) before sending, include an ice brick in transit in very hot weather and exclude as much air from the sample bags as possible.
The WormBoss Drench Decision Guide
The Drench Decision Guide helps to simplify decisions on whether and when to drench. There is a version of the Drench Decision Guide for each WormBoss region.
- whether signs of worms are present
- the class of animal
- the WormTest results
- the condition of the animals
- the condition of the pasture
- the likely worm contamination of the paddock
The Drench Decision Guide will recommend:
- whether to drench now
- whether to use a persistent drench
- when to WormTest again
How to use the Drench Decision Guide
You can use the Drench Decision Guide at any time, whether you are contemplating drenching now or in coming weeks. Not all situations require a WormTest: the Drench Decision Guide will recommend when these should be done.
Each region-specific Drench Decision Guide is available as a separate 2-page printable version or can be used directly online. Both are available at the link below.
Using the print version:
- Start on the page that shows the ‘Drench Decision Guide Questions’.
- Read Question 1.
- Follow the ‘go to’ information on the right for the answer that applies to your goats.
- Only go to the question or recommendation to which you are directed by your answer.
- When you are directed to a letter, this is the final recommendation, and is shown on the next ‘Recommendations’ page.
- Also, read the important information in the green boxes.
Using the web version:
- Select an answer for the first question and you will automatically be taken to the next appropriate question.
- Select an answer for each question and you will automatically be taken to the Recommendation, where your choices and Recommended Actions will be shown, as well as other important information.