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Wet, warmth and worms: watch out for barber's pole this summer

Sheep producers in the Murray region are being urged to be on the look-out for signs of barber’s pole worm.

Murray Local Land Services District Veterinarian, Eve Hall, said that significant recent rainfall and warming conditions are likely to see high-risk conditions for the parasite.

“Worm numbers can multiply rapidly due to the female worm being a prolific egg producer, depositing up to 10,000 eggs per day, and quickly leading to heavy pasture contamination,” she said.

“Eggs require warmth and moisture to survive and hatch into infective larvae, so current conditions are expected to pose a high risk.”

Barber’s pole worm is a blood-sucking parasite that attaches to the gut lining of sheep and goats, leading to anaemia, weakness and death.

“On some occasions, death due to barber’s pole worm can be quite sudden, with few, if any, signs seen beforehand,” Ms Hall said.

“When examined, animals with barber’s pole worm will have very pale mucous membranes and often fluid under the neck known as ‘bottle jaw’. Unlike other intestinal worms, diarrhoea and weight loss are not necessarily seen.”

Ms Hall said regular faecal egg counts were an effective way to detect barber’s pole worm early.

“Faecal egg counts carried out 14 days after drenching will help give an idea of drench effectiveness, as drench resistance issues with barber’s pole worm are becoming more common,” she said.

“Producers should avoid returning drenched animals to heavily contaminated pastures, as rapid reinfection and drench resistance issues can occur.”

Ms Hall said faecal egg count kits can be easily obtained from Local Land Services offices in Albury and Deniliquin.

“We advise vigilance when monitoring flocks with regular faecal egg counts,” she said.

“If sheep are showing clinical signs that suggest barber’s pole worm, speak with a local District Vet at one of our offices.”

The Animal Biosecurity and Welfare team can be contacted on (02) 6051 2200 (Albury) or (03) 5881 9900 (Deniliquin).

Media contact: Matt Lane, Communications, (02) 6051 2252, M 0427 459 755