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

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.)

FAMACHA – Photo courtesy of The American Fainting Goat Association


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 Cydectin Pour 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!


Photo courtesy The American Fainting Goat Association.


Read more about Barber Pole here.


Hoegger Farmyard Contributor
Shannon Lawrence

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  1. by george.lager
    Comment made on: August 9 2012

    I have also written a short article on my blog about the barber pole worm, including several experiments using different dewormers with my diary goats. You might be interested in my experience. Go to and find “Blood-sucking creatures in your goat’s stomach”.

  2. by brigidsfarm
    Comment made on: August 9 2012

    I am currently the goat representative for the state of Vermont in a USDA SARE grant study out of the University of Rhode Island.

    This grant specifically looks at the identification and control of Barber Pole worms and others that are less problematic. We use first and foremost FAMACHA and condition scoring because is has been our experience that diarrhea is NOT a symptom of Barber Pole but would indicate other worms. The most significant indicator is anemia or less than good pink/red eyelid color.

    It has also been shown that wormers are most effective given orally not pour-on. The pour-on process dilutes the wormer by the time it reaches stomach worms and contributes to resistance to wormers. Also in the case of many wormers, goats need a double dose since they metabolize it so fast. That is double the dose of sheep. I would go for an oral wormer rather than a pour-on even if giving orally. The dosage is better calculated in an oral wormer. My wormer of choice for goats is Ivomectin drench for sheep given at 2x the sheep dose. I will give sheep and kids one dose of Valbazin during the summer as it knocks down tapeworms effectively which don’t kill animals but can compromise condition.

    For those of us who have followed these practices and done routine eyelid checks every 2 weeks, we have seen a more effective treatment of Barber Poles (our most abundant parasite), and an ability to treat for worms less frequently. The benefit of this sort of program means worms are knocked down during treatment and there is less case of resistance to the anthelmintics which happens to animals routinely wormed without proof of infestation.

    I do support giving B-Complex and thiamine shots. I usually do a combo shot of the 2 to an anemic animal and a shot of iron as well. It really helps and helps the stomach bacteria get back in shape.

    One last preventive is to put animals out on pasture that is dry- not first thing in the AM and to feed some protein. The later is proven in my dairy goats who rarely get pale eyelids. Why? They are on grain for milking. I now give everyone a tiny treat in the evening and have seen less need to worm.

    Two sites to check are Anne Zajac’s who is the parasitologist/DVM/advisor on the SARE study-

    Also, University of Maryland,
    It is a sheep site but most of the info, except dosage, is applicable to goats.

  3. by KrisSherrill
    Comment made on: August 9 2012

    I’m so sorry you lost the 2 goats to this horrible worm problem. I too have been dealing with this. But mostly in my sheep. I have it under control now, but it was touch and go there for awhile. Really scary. I have copied down your treatment and will do this if I come across it again. I have a new bottle of Cydectin and Thiamine. I also had a few young does with Thiamine deficiency and almost lost them. They are both ok now and back to their fiesty stinkin’ little selves again.

  4. by paulaross
    Comment made on: August 10 2012

    We recently went to a seminar on parasite control. Their advice now is not to treat every animal. What you have created is a herd shedding only resistant worms so when they go into your pasture they will shed resistant worms and make it that much harder to kill them the next time. If you do not treat the whole herd you will have a combination of resistant and nonresistant breeding together there by reducing the resistants’ to wormers. They said that the old advice of treating the whole herd is wrong. They now recommend treating only the symptomatic ones. By using the FAMACHA or physical symptoms. We used to use the old method and ran into trouble. We now only worm as needed per individual. We went from losses to barber pole to no losses. We have identified the few in the herd that are a problem and just worm them on a regular basis. They say 80% of worms are in 20% of the herd. Wish I still had the names of the Vets who put on the seminar, they specialize in parasite control. Most vets are still using the old protocal our vet included

  5. by fiberfarmer
    Comment made on: August 10 2012

    I have used the Famacha chart for 1 year, and I only have to worm 3-4 of my herd of 12.
    Two are rescue goats and they were in tough shape when I got them, they are now a 3 on the chart and worming is an option. I also put the goats on a spreadsheet and although I check them often once a month I do a well goat check and record their Famacha number.
    Also my goats are not out until the grass is dry and in before dew in the evening. I put their outside water in an area where I removed grass and dirt and replaced with sand.
    Incresing their protein is supposed to make them more resisitant to worms so they get about 7 salted in the shell peanuts every afternoon. One of my goats is a 14 year old Cashmere and his Famacha number is always a 1. I think preventing worms is always better than trying to deal with a sick animal, both emotionally and financially.
    Good Luck!

  6. by violetlovesgoats
    Comment made on: August 10 2012

    Can you give it to young kids? You have to give it orally?

  7. by
    Comment made on: October 25 2012

    I read your article and tried it in my dairy herd. Just wanted to say the results were wonderful and my goats are healthier than they had been in awhile. I check their eye pigment on a weekly schedule and I have better looking eyelids than ever!! Thank you so much for sharing!!

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