Worms and welfare

Tablelands Telegraph - July 2022

A continuing issue across the region

Worms worms worms - this has been the story of sheep over summer and autumn. Dealing with barber’s pole infestations took up most of our District Vet’s working time over summer and caused welfare issues in flocks both large and small.

With the onset of colder weather, a lot of people assume that they can take a break from worm management.


Barber’s pole worm is the biggest concern in the northern parts of Central Tablelands. While summer is definitely the worst time for barber’s pole, the larvae actually survive longer on pasture over winter (it takes 6 months for 90% of the larvae to die off at 10°C, and they will live through frosts), so if sheep are on a contaminated pasture (and most pastures are contaminated!), they will continue to pick up worms.

The scour worms - black scour worm and brown stomach worm - are more of an issue in the southern parts of the Central Tablelands. Pasture larval availability for these worms is highest in June-August.

There are two broad categories of worm management:

1) dealing with a current problem where sheep are sick or dying, and

2) preventing the sheep from getting to that point

Treating a mob affected by worms involves giving a medication (drench) to kill the worms (“drenching”). As a general rule, using a drench with two or more active ingredients (drench classes) is better than using a single active drench. Treating a mob this way is important for animal welfare – without drenching, more sheep will become ill and die.

Prevention of high worm burdens is extremely important to reduce our reliance on drenches and to reduce the likelihood of drench resistance. There are a variety of methods, and the combination of these will vary from property to property, year to year.

  • Grazing management – creating low worm risk pastures for high-risk classes of sheep (generally lambing ewes and weaners) by keeping stock out of selected paddocks
  • Breeding sheep to be more resistant or resilient to worms
  • Use of barbervax vaccine (for barber’s pole worm only)
  • Use of Bioworma®
  • Ensuring optimum nutrition
  • Performing regular worm egg counts – these tests give an idea of whether a mob has a worm problem before they start showing signs of disease. They can be done through the NSW state veterinary lab with a kit available from our offices, or through private providers.

As worm management is a complex topic, detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this article. For more information, please go to www.wormboss.com.au.

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