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Home WormBoss Worm Control Program for Goats – Australian Smallholders When to Check and When to Drench for Goats – Australian Smallholders

When to Check and When to Drench for Goats – Australian Smallholders

What signs to assess and when

Where worm egg count is not used, there are three indicators that animals can be affected by worms; these reflect different worm types:

Sign to assessWorms assessed
Body condition score (BCS)Scour worms (and to some extent – Barber’s pole worm)
FAMACHA© scoreBarber’s pole worm
Scouring (faecal consistency score)Scour worms

Depending on your location, you may need to assess for either or both barber’s pole worm or scour worms. See the Smallholders – Introduction section.

Unfortunately, unlike worm egg count, these indicators are not specific for worms and changes in them can be caused by other conditions. For this reason, worm egg counting is considered the preferred means for assessing worm infection in goats, but this program acknowledges that WormTests may not be easily conducted by smallholders. 

Body condition score

Assess monthly.

This involves assessing the amount of fat covering the short ribs and backbone in the loin area and monitoring how this is changing over time. As the animal becomes fatter, the spines of the vertebrae and the edges of the short ribs become less prominent and the muscle that lies on top of the short ribs (the backstrap) and associated fat become larger.

More information on how to condition score goats:

Video: Body Condition Scores in Goats

FAMACHA© score

Assess weekly during periods of high barber’s pole worm risk and monthly during periods of low risk.

There is a well-established process to check for anaemia called the FAMACHA® system, in which you assess the colour of the mucus membranes inside of the lower eyelid (conjunctiva) and compare it to colours on a FAMACHA® card. The colour of the conjunctiva reflects the amount of red blood cells in the animal.

The FAMACHA® system uses a card with 5 blocks of colour: 1 is a red, 2 is a red-pink, 3 is a pink, 4 is pink-white and 5 is white.  Scores of 1 – 2 are recorded from healthy goats and 4 – 5 from goats suffering anaemia.

To check the eye colour, press gently directly onto the closed upper eyelid, pressing the eye into the socket just a little, while pulling down on the skin of the lower lid (the video listed below provides a good demonstration of how to do this). The pressure on the eye is not painful, and will help to cause the conjunctiva to bulge at the bottom. The third eyelid (nictitating membrane) may also come out from the inside corner of the eye and spread across the eye, this should not be scored as it is generally paler.

The card is held close to the conjunctiva and the colours on the card are compared to the conjunctiva. The score that most closely matches the colour of the conjunctiva is chosen.

More information on FAMACHA® score in goats:

Online FAMACHA© Scoring Certification, published by University of Rhode Island. 

Video: Why and how to do FAMACHA Scoring by Anne Zajac, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, published by University of Rhode Island. 


Assess weekly for watery scours.

This involves assessing the consistency of the goat’s faeces and monitoring whether this is changing over time. The faeces can be dry, firm pellets (score 1), through to soft, watery diarrhoea (score 3.5).

Care needs to be taken because diarrhoea (high faecal consistency scores) can result from causes other than worms. Lush, green pasture will quickly cause the faeces to become softer or watery. Coccidia, an intestinal parasite, will also cause diarrhoea, but such faeces generally also have a foul smell, may contain blood and the animal will appear hunched-up due to abdominal pain.

Figure 1. Scouring indicates that a drench is warranted. 

Note that if a goat with watery scours does not respond after drenching, and there has been no recent diet change, there may be some other problem. Consulting your veterinarian is advised.

When to drench

After assessing body condition score, FAMACHA® and scouring as indicators of likely worm infection, use this information to decide the need for drenching in the following way.


All goats that have one of more of:

  • Body Condition Score of 2 or less (poor condition)
  • FAMACHA® score of 4 or 5 (pale and anaemic)
  •  Faecal consistency score of 5 (diarrhoea)

Kids, young goats from weaning to 18 months of age, bucks or does during late pregnancy and lactation that have one of these:

  • Body Condition Score of 2.5 or less (moderate to poor condition)
  • FAMACHA® score of 3 (moderate anaemia)

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 geographical region for Australia.

There is also a version specifically for Smallholders.

It considers:

  • 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 Drench Decision Guide is available as a separate 2-page printable version, or can be used directly online. Both are available at the links below (Smallholder specific, or region-specific).

Using the print version:

  1. Start on the page that shows the ‘Drench Decision Guide Questions’.
  2. Read Question 1.
  3. Follow the ‘go to’ information on the right for the answer that applies to your sheep.
  4. Only go to the question or recommendation to which you are directed by your answer.
  5. When you are directed to a letter, this is the final recommendation, and is shown on the next ‘Recommendations’ page.
  6. Also, read the important information in the green boxes.

Using the web version:

  1. Agree to the terms of use and press start
  2. Select an answer for the first question and you will automatically be taken to the next appropriate question.
  3. Select an answer for each question and you will automatically be taken to the Recommendation, where your choices with also be shown as well as other important information.

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