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When to WormTest and when to drench

WormBoss worm control program for goats

South Australia


When to WormTest and when to drench goats

Why check worm burdens in goats?

Checking worm burdens with a WormTest is essential for correct and timely drenching decisions and to confirm that your worm control program is on track. The result is healthy goats, without unnecessary drenching. 

WormTests are the best basis for drenching decisions (Drench Decision Guides):

  • To confirm whether signs of ill-health are likely to be due to worms. Many signs are not specific to worms, e.g. weight loss and poor growth rates, a weaker tail group lagging behind the others, scouring and possibly deaths. These signs occur well after production losses from worms are occurring in the herd.
  • To check whether worm burdens are causing production loss, even though signs of worms are not present. Reduced weight gains and fibre growth occur well before signs of ill-health are seen.
  • To show whether the number of worm eggs being passed onto pasture is too high for a particular time of year.
  • To give early warning to prevent significant production losses (or where barber’s pole worm exists, the risk of deaths).

Drenching based on WormTests is also the most cost-effective ongoing option for worm control in this region, as unnecessary drenching is expensive in both drench and labour costs, and contributes to the development of drench resistance.

How are worm burdens tested?

1.   Using a WormTest

  • Checking worm burdens throughout the year using WormTests is a critical part of the WormBoss worm control program. Most WormTests are done through a laboratory.
  • Worm egg counts (but usually not larval cultures) can be done by producers if they have the equipment and skills. Ideally, producers should have their preparation and counting technique reviewed by an accredited laboratory and perform ongoing quality control checks, just like an accredited laboratory to ensure their results are correct.
  • Seek professional advice where worm egg count results are not simple to interpret.

2.   Checking on farm

Where it is not practical to conduct WormTests, FAMACHA© (for barber’s pole worm only), Body Condition Scoring (BCS) and scouring can be used to indicate if treatment is required.

  • For FAMACHA, check the conjunctiva (inside the lower eyelid). Normal healthy goats have a dark pink to red conjunctiva. Goats suffering from anaemia, which can occur with barber’s pole worm and liver fluke, will have paler membranes; in severe cases they can be almost white. The FAMACHA© scoring system evaluates the level of anaemia in the individual animal. 
  • For BCS, check the back region—use the lumbar vertebra for condition scoring in meat goats. A condition score of 2.5–3.0 is desirable, while a score of 2.0 is too low, and above a score of 3.5 is too high. Does need to be in condition score 3.0 at kidding.
  • Scouring. The consistency of faeces can indicate the need for treatment, however, there are other common causes of scouring. Look for watery (score 5) diarrhoea.

When using anthelmintic products in goats, a veterinary prescription is often required because: 

  • Goats require a different dose rate and withholding period than specified on most products, even for many registered goat drenches.
  • Most sheep drenches are useful, but not registered for use in goats.

While cattle drenches can be used at the label rates on goats in South Australia and sheep drenches on goats in Victoria, a veterinary prescription is still required for dose rates recommended for goats.


When should WormTests and drenches be routinely done?

WormTests can be done at any time; however there are certain routine times to WormTest, shown below. Use the results with the Drench Decision Guide to decide whether to drench and when other WormTests should be done. A larval culture (larval differentiation) with the WormTest is particularly useful in areas or seasons in which summer rainfall occurs and barber’s pole worm is a risk.

Routine WormTest times


  • Kids kept on their mothers longer than 12–14 weeks (usually until turnoff).
    • Test at 12 weeks then each 4 weeks until turnoff.
  • Weaners
    • Test 4 weeks after the weaning drench then each 4–6 weeks until the end of their second winter. 
  • Does
    • Pre-kidding and pre-shearing in fibre goats.
    • Pre-marking.
    • Pre-weaning.
    • 6–8 weeks after marking if weaning is later than 14 weeks.
    • 6–8 weeks after the ‘summer drench’, then 8 weekly till pre-kidding.

Higher Rainfall Mediterranean

  • Kids kept on their mothers longer than 12–14 weeks (usually until turnoff).
    • Test at 12 weeks then each 4 weeks until turnoff
  • Weaners
    • Test 4 weeks after the weaning drench then each 4–6 weeks until the end of their second winter.
  • Does
    • Pre-kidding.
    • Pre-marking.
    • Pre-weaning.
    • 6–8 weeks after marking if weaning is later than 14 weeks.
    • 8 weekly from when the feed is drying until pre-kidding.

Lower Rainfall Mediterranean

  • Kids at weaning. Many kid mobs do not require drenching. Your options are:
    • Test prior to weaning by collecting only kid dung.
    • Test at weaning after kids are separated: collect dung and keep kids nearby until results are received.
    • Or drench all kids at weaning, but this is not the preferred option as many mobs will not need drenching.
  • Weaners
    • Test 6 weeks after the weaning drench.
    • Thereafter test at intervals depending on their feed quality: green pasture (6 weekly), dry pasture (8 weekly), on crop stubbles (10 weekly), until the end of their second winter.
  • Does
    • Pre-kidding.
    • Weaning – test does if more than 10% are scouring.
    • Just before harvest.
    • 10 weeks after the pre-harvest test (if on pasture) or when does leave crop stubble.
  • Bucks: WormTest at 6–8 week intervals after a short-acting drench and ensure a WormTest occurs one month before joining
  • If DrenchTest results are not available, conduct a DrenchCheck, 14 days after treatment.

WormTest more often in high rainfall years and less often in very dry years.

Routine drench times

Some drenches are ‘strategic’, and are given for either of two purposes.

  1. At a critical time to reduce worm larval contamination of a pasture for the benefit of the whole mob or herd rather than just for the treated animals.
  2. Irrespective of worm egg count at times when goats are expected to be more susceptible to worm infection.


  • Kids at weaning.
  • Working bucks pre-joining.
  • The ‘summer drench’ (Late November/December, 2–3 weeks after the feed has dried, but before Christmas).

Higher Rainfall Mediterranean

  • Kids at weaning.?
  • Working bucks pre-joining.
  • There are no routine drenches for breeding does in this zone.

Lower Rainfall Mediterranean

  • Working bucks pre-joining.
  • There are no other routine drenches in this zone.

In all cases, use a drench known to be effective on your property. Preferably use a short-acting treatment, and where possible, use a multi-active combination or single active drenches can be used sequentially, i.e. up the race with one drench and then up the race with the other. After these drenches, move the goats into prepared low worm-risk paddocks (Drench groups and actives).

Note: long-acting drenches are rarely required in South Australia. Where treatment for barber’s pole worm is also required, broad spectrum drenches are generally effective as drench resistance in barber’s pole worm is uncommon in South Australia.

When are other WormTests done and drenches given?

The timing of WormTests and drenches will vary between farms and seasons. Use the Drench Decision Guide (see below) to weigh up important factors when deciding when to drench or WormTest on your property. These factors include signs of worms, time since last drench, the persistence of the last drench, WormTest results, recent rainfall, and condition of animals and pastures/browse.

If drenching is done for other reasons (such as an early drench before holidays or harvesting), use the Drench Decision Guide to decide when to drench or WormTest again.

What samples should be collected for WormTests?

Animals do not need to be yarded for a WormTest. Collect warm fresh dung from the paddock (but make sure that samples from ewes/does are not combined with those of their lambs/kids).

To conduct a WormTest obtain WormTest kits or sample collection details from your testing laboratory or advisor.

If you do your own worm egg counts, use the bulk sampling method where dung is collected into a single container.

  • Collect 3 pellets per pile of dung from at least 20 individuals if the mob has fewer than 200 animals and at least from 40 individual dung piles from larger mobs.
  • Choose pellets of equal size so that each animal is equally represented.
  • If dung consistency is runny, use a plastic spoon. Don’t avoid runny or soft dung.
  • Collect ewe/does and lamb/kid samples separately.

Avoid delays in transit (when worm eggs can hatch) by collecting and posting early in the week. Also ensure samples are kept cool (refrigerate but do not freeze) before sending, include an ice brick in transit in very hot weather and exclude as much air from the sample bags as possible.

Checking a mob of sheep or goats for worms with a WormTest

Checking a mob of sheep or goats for worms without a WormTest

The WormBoss Drench Decision Guide

The Drench Decision Guide helps to simplify decisions on whether and when to drench. There is a version of the Drench Decision Guide for each WormBoss region.

It considers:

  • whether signs of worms are present
  • the class of animal
  • the WormTest results
  • the condition of the animals
  • the condition of the pasture
  • the likely worm contamination of the paddock

The Drench Decision Guide will recommend:

  • whether to drench now
  • whether to use a persistent drench
  • when to WormTest again

How to use the Drench Decision Guide

You can use the Drench Decision Guide at any time, whether you are contemplating drenching now or in coming weeks. Not all situations require a WormTest: the Drench Decision Guide will recommend when these should be done.

Each Drench Decision Guide is available as a separate 2-page printable version or can be used directly online.

Using the print-version:

  1. Start on the page that shows the ‘Drench Decision Guide Questions’.
  2. Read Question 1.
  3. Follow the ‘go to’ information on the right for the answer that applies to your goats.
  4. Only go to the question or recommendation to which you are directed by your answer.
  5. When you are directed to a letter, this is the final recommendation, and is shown on the next ‘Recommendations’ page.
  6. Also, read the important information in the green boxes.

Using the web version

  1. Agree to the terms of use and press start
  2. Select an answer for the first question and you will automatically be taken to the next appropriate question.
  3. Select an answer for each question and you will automatically be taken to the Recommendation, where your choices with also be shown as well as other important information.

See the online Drench Decision Guide.