Barber's pole parasite can be a killer in sheep and other animals

Haemonchus Contortus, otherwise known as Barbers' pole worm, is a blood sucking internal parasite causing illness and death in sheep, alpaca and goats.

We have seen many cases of Barbers' pole popping up around the district over the last month in both adult sheep and young lambs. In our district Barbers pole is most common in late summer and autumn, when we have warm and moist conditions. These are the conditions when this parasite thrives.

What might you see?


Young and old animals are more susceptible to Barbers' pole, however if pasture levels are low and the area is contaminated with lots of eggs, any class of stock can have an issue. You may notice that your animals appear weak and lethargic, or separate themselves away from the flock. Upon closer examination we may see that the animals have pale gums and eyes (mucous membranes). Sudden death can also occur if these subtle signs are missed.

How can you check if you have a problem?

Faecal samples can be collected from animals displaying the signs and can be tested at our vet clinic for faecal egg counting (FEC). After examining the sample under the microscope, we can tell if the animal is heavily burdened with parasites and recommend the best drench for you. Checking the mucous membranes (eyes and gum) colour we can assess if the animal is a nice healthy pink colour or if the animal could have an issue with Barbers' pole.

What can we do to help?

If you think that your animals may be affected with Barbers' pole, give us a call. We offer vet visits for sick animals and vet tech calls for drenching and collecting samples.

At Levin and Horowhenua Vets we offer FECs in house allowing for fast results.

Young and old animals are more susceptible to Barbers' pole. Photo / NZME
Young and old animals are more susceptible to Barbers' pole. Photo / NZME

Based on the FECs we can recommend drenches and can dispense individual doses of drench which is helpful if you only have a few animals.

If you need help with drenching, our vet tech team can come out on farm to help you and customise drenching plans for your animals.


• Ashleigh Taylor is the Large Animal Veterinary Technologist at Levin and Horowhenua Veterinary Centre