One for the Sheep, Goat & Alpaca owners

 alpacaSince 1788 when Cape Fat Tail sheep arrived in Australia with the First Fleet Australia has had a proud history of growing and producing the best sheep in the world (significantly better than the kiwi’s). Today over 32 million lambs are born in Australia every year. But are we looking after our wooly friends as best we can?

The greatest difficulty faced by sheep, goat and alpaca owners is worms.  

The culprits

Where are adults found

Abomasum (the 2nd stomach) – Barbers pole worm and Black scour worm

Small intestine – Thin-necked intestinal worm and Black scour worm

Large intestine – Large-mouthed bowel worm and Large bowel worm

Worm eggs in the environment

Eggs are released by adults in the gastrointestinal tract. These eggs are then passed in the faeces and contaminate pasture and water

The pasture on which sheep/goats are grazed acts as an egg reservoir. Eggs may remain in the environment for weeks, months or even years

Eggs hatch depending on temperature, humidity and oxygen

The damage

Worms can and will cause varying types of problems, including

Anaemia – reduced red blood cells

‘Bottle jaw’ – pendulous skin under the jaw caused by fluid accumulating outside the arteries / veinsbottle-jaw


Weight loss

Sudden death

Some sheep and goats can have over 2000 worms or greater than 1000 worm eggs per a gram of faeces before they show signs of sickness.

Combating worms

Identify high risk animals

Sheep / goats less than 18 months old have a poor immunity to worms

Poor nutrition leads to poor immunity and increased worm numbers

Pregnant ewes / nannys

HOWEVER all sheep and goats without correct management will develop large worm numbers

Controlling worms in the environment

Large sheep grazing properties decrease the eggs on pasture by

Grazing cattle in sheep paddocks – cattle are resistant to a lot of sheep parasites

Planting cereal crops in sheep paddocks so that the eggs have no animals to infect

However in situations where rotating paddocks is not possible drenching sheep or the use of ‘anthelmintics’ is the only available worm control technique

Worm Drench Resistance

Due to poor management and inappropriate use of worm drenches, worms today have up to a 90% resistance to worming drenches. In cases where the wrong quantity or type of drench has been used a sheep or goat may be excreting worm eggs within three weeks of being drenched. Therefore incorrect chemical selection on your property may be a waste of time, money and lead to the development of drench resistance

To reduce the drench resistance on your property a strategic drenching plan must be developed for your property. This involves

Counting worm eggs within faeces to monitor the worm numbers

Monitoring the weather and paddock conditions to ensure the drench is given at the perfect time to ensure as many worms are killed as possible.

How Vet Cross can help

At Vet Cross we have the facilities to analyze faecal samples from your sheep. Quiet often we find worm eggs in completely healthy, normal sheep allowing you to strategically drench your sheep before they get sick

We also have a wide variety of worm drenches, allowing us to rotate drenches and reduce the risk of worm resistance developing on your property

In consultation with you and by discussing your housing and feeding techniques we can determine the best worming program to ensure your sheep and goats live long, happy and most importantly healthy lives.