Parasite of the month: Barbers Pole

Haemonchus contortus, commonly known as barber’s pole worm, is a blood sucking parasite that can cause ill thrift and death.

This parasite gets its name from their red and white ‘barber’s pole’ colouration under the microscope. This worm is a very common parasite in small ruminants such as sheep, goats, and alpaca. It is seen mainly during summer/early Autumn in warm, humid climates. Adult worms attach to the stomach lining and feed on blood. Affected animals may show signs of ill-thrift, anaemia, oedema, and diarrhoea. Severe cases can result in death. Females lay up to 10,000 eggs each day, which pass out of the animal in the faeces. After hatching from the eggs, larvae moult twice, before they are swallowed by stock, as they are grazing. There are a few drench families which can be used to treat H. contortus infections – however there is an ever-increasing prevalence of anthelmintic resistance in this species. Faecal egg counts can help determine if your animals may be burdened with these parasites and whether a drench is required. Other control methods include rotational grazing with other species (cattle or horses), feeding supplements, cropping or shutting up paddocks for hay to break the parasite’s lifecycle.

What to watch out for:

  • Pale gums and mucous membranes (eyes and vulva)
  • Bottle jaw (oedema)
  • Lethargy/reluctance to walk and run