Barber Pole Worms

Goat vs. Barber Pole – don’t let the worms win

Due to weather conditions in the United States, including the Southeast, the incidence of Barber Pole worms is increasing. I have recently had my own struggles with these nefarious creatures and have sometimes been successful and sometimes not.   I have raised goats for many years and have not had this much trouble from a parasite in a very long time. I know that goats, no matter if they are meat, dairy or fiber, are livestock and when you become involved you are supposed to understand that losses occur, but to such a formidable unseen opponent, it is very hard to swallow.


When you start your involvement with goats, your mentor or veterinarian probably told you to look for the tell-tale signs of worms. The ruddy coat, tail down, diarrhea, not eating, etc. According to my veterinarian the ones that have the outward signs are the ones mostly likely to survive the infestation. The ones you should worry over are the ones that show no signs at all that they are even sick until it is almost too late. To understand this serious worm problem you need to know the basics of the dreaded Barber Pole worm.


About Barber Pole worms:


Barber Pole worm or Haemonchus contortus ( Ha-mon-cuss  con-tortoise) is a gastrointestinal blood sucking worm that can cause severe anemia, dehydration, loss of blood, diarrhea and internal fluid accumulation. Nothing pleasant for you or your goats. Environmental factors contribute greatly to increased numbers of Barber Pole and when you add in the increased resistance build-up to wormers as a result of extreme over-use, it results in a lot of illness and deaths.


Valbazen, a worming product that most people use for Barber Pole, is showing to be of little help in treatment of Barber Pole in goats due to the over-use of the product.   Barber Pole worms are long and round – not that you will ever see them expelled in the fecal matter. These worms are more deadly in the L3, L4 and L5 life stages. The adults live in the abomasum of goats where they feed on blood.


The females can produce between 5,000 and 10,000 eggs per day, which pass from feces to the pasture. Eggs hatch in the soil or water and become L1 larvae followed by L2 and L3. The L3 are ingested by the goats from the grass in the pasture. The L3 burrows into the internal layer of the goat’s abomasum causing depletion of red blood cells. In severe cases, an infected goat can effectively bleed to death within hours. You should rotate your goats off of the infected pasture, if possible, immediately.


My Story: (NOTE: I am not a veterinarian. This is what worked for me, please follow your veterinarian’s instructions.)


I am a firm believer in using FAMACHA whenever possible and it has served me well over the past several years. I keep an eye on mucus membranes doing random checks on the goats every day. The first to get sick was one of my bucks. Mark was the picture of health until one day I noticed he was standing off and not fighting at the food like normal with the other bucks. No problem, a little dose of Pepto, maybe he ate something that did not agree with him. Next morning, Mark has watery diarrhea spraying from him. Uh oh, not just something he ate, so I treated him for worms, then again. He was not getting better but VERY much worse. I did a fecal on him and saw a few barber pole eggs. So I treated him with Valbazen and waited.



When I saw him the next day , he was almost unrecognizable. My beautiful healthy boy just a few days before, then to this within about a two day span. What was going on? I was treating for barber pole and any other such beasts as I could think of. I was giving Vitamin B Complex every twelve hours along with other various blood-building remedie, to no avail. I finally started giving him sub-cutaneous fluids, he was such a trooper and did not give up.


In the meantime, I had two others in another pasture become ill. One had the tell-tale diarrhea and super skinny appearance and the other was just very lethargic. I brought them in and treated them with the same treatments. The one with diarrhea survived and the other was dead in a day. I took her to University of Georgia to have an autopsy done. I had never dealt with anything like this before. I consulted my veterinarian for further recommendations. She told me that it was probably Barber Pole, but I wanted proof since I had never dealt with this before. The next day I had two more become sick. One with diarrhea and the other not; I lost the non-diarrhea doe the following morning. I was heart sick.


I started with the recommended treatment by my veterinarian the next day. I not only treated the sick ones, but everyone on the property. You have to break the life cycle of the worm.


Her recommendation is as follows:

  • Cattle CydectinPour On (Purple liquid): Give 1cc per 20 pounds orally.
  • At the same time you should give an injection subcutaneous of prescription strength Thiamine, 1cc per 50 pounds, every 12 hours until diarrhea stops.
  • The Cydectin should be given every 10 days for at least 3 times. Every time you give Cydectin you have to give the injection of Thiamine. Thiamine is the only B vitamin the body cannot produce. It also helps stop the diarrhea.

She also gave me another product that I have had great success with; Bio-Sponge by Platinum Performance, also available through your veterinarian. It is not labeled for goats (like most products) but it works fantastically to stop diarrhea. It absorbs the toxins in the digestive tract helping to remove the chance for GI upset.


I have been really lucky to have only lost two goats to Barber pole worm (knock on wood) but am going to continue to treat my goats every ten days for at least another month to make sure that I have broken the life cycle and until my new pasture is ready!


Read more about Barber Pole here.


Hoegger Farmyard Contributor
Shannon Lawrence