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When to check and when to drench

WormBoss worm control program for goats

Australian smallholders


When to check and when to drench

On this page:

What signs to assess and when

Where worm egg count is not used, there are three indicators that animals can be affected by worms; these reflect different worm types:

Sign to assess Worms assessed

Body condition score (BCS)

scour worms and to some extent, barber’s pole worm

FAMACHA© score

barber’s pole worm

Scouring (faecal consistency score)

scour worms


Depending on your location, you may need to assess for either or both barber’s pole worm or scour worms. See the “Which worms are covered in this region’ section.

Unfortunately, unlike worm egg count, these indicators are not specific for worms and changes in them can be caused by other conditions. For this reason, worm egg counting is considered the preferred means for assessing worm infection in goats, but this program acknowledges that WormTests may not be easily conducted by smallholders. 

Body condition score

Assess monthly.

This involves assessing the amount of fat covering the short ribs and backbone in the loin area and monitoring how this is changing over time. As the animal becomes fatter, the spines of the vertebrae and the edges of the short ribs become less prominent and the muscle that lies on top of the short ribs (the backstrap) and associated fat become larger.

More information on how to condition score goats:

Assessment skills for goat meat marketing

Video: Body Condition Scores in Goats

Video: Dairy Goat Body Condition Scoring

FAMACHA© score

Assess weekly during periods of high barber’s pole worm risk and monthly during periods of low risk.

There is a well-established process to check for anaemia called the FAMACHA system, in which you assess the colour of the mucus membranes inside of the lower eyelid (conjunctiva) and compare it to colours on a FAMACHA card. The colour of the conjunctiva reflects the amount of red blood cells in the animal.

The FAMACHA system uses a card with 5 blocks of colour: 1 is a red, 2 is a red-pink, 3 is a pink, 4 is pink-white and 5 is white.  Scores of 1–-2 are recorded from healthy goats and 4–-5 from goats suffering anaemia.

To check the eye colour, press gently directly onto the closed upper eyelid, pressing the eye into the socket just a little, while pulling down on the skin of the lower lid (the video listed below provides a good demonstration of how to do this). The pressure on the eye is not painful, and will help to cause the conjunctiva to bulge at the bottom. The nictitating membrane or third eyelid may also come out from the inside corner of the eye and spread across the eye, this should not be scored as it is generally paler.

The card is held close to the conjunctiva and the colours on the card are compared to the conjunctiva. The score that most closely matches the colour of the conjunctiva is chosen.

More information on FAMACHA score in goats:

Why and How To Do FAMACHA© Scoring, published by University of Rhode Island. 

Video: Why and how to do FAMACHA Scoring by Anne Zajac, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, published by University of Rhode Island. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5rcuvVG56Q&feature=youtu.be


Assess weekly for watery scours.

This involves assessing the consistency of the goat’s faeces and monitoring whether this is changing over time. The faeces can be dry, firm pellets (score 1), through to soft, watery diarrhoea (score 3.5).

Care needs to be taken because diarrhoea (high faecal consistency scores) can result from causes other than worms. Lush, green pasture will cause the faeces to become softer or watery. Coccidia, an intestinal parasite, will also cause diarrhoea, but the faeces generally also has a foul smell, may contain blood and the animal will appear hunched up due to abdominal pain.

Figure 1. Watery scours indicate a drench is warranted. 

Note that if a goat with watery scours does not respond after drenching, there may be some other cause of scouring or the drench is ineffective. Such scouring can be likely soon after a change of diet to very lush green feed, if such a diet change has not occurred consult your veterinarian as it could be a sign of coccidiosis.

When to drench

After assessing body condition score, FAMACHA and scouring as indicators of likely worm infection, use this information to decide the need for drenching in the following way.


All goats that have one of more of:

  • Body Condition Score of 2 or less (poor condition)
  • FAMACHA score of 4 or 5 (pale and anaemic)
  • Faecal consistency score of 5 (diarrhoea)

Kids, young goats from weaning to 18 months of age, bucks or does during late pregnancy and lactation that have one of these:

  • Body Condition Score of 2.5 or less (moderate to poor condition)
  • FAMACHA score of 3 (moderate anaemia)