by Andrew Cribb (Cribby),
Cribby is the Director/Veterinarian at East Coast Farm Vets
It’s typically from late-December to early March when Barber’s Pole sets in.
The warm, wet and humid weather conditions are a perfect combination for this debilitating parasite to take hold.
Barber’s Pole is a parasite that will attack sheep when climatic conditions are right, i.e. warm dry conditions followed by periods of rain.
They suck blood from the fourth stomach and cause the affected sheep to be become lethargic, lose significant weight in a short period of time and some sheep will be found dead in the paddock.
One way of diagnosing the disease on farm is to look at the gums or the inner eyelids, if they are pale then they are anaemic and it is probable that they are suffering from Barber’s Pole.
Lambs have less immunity and body mass and are therefore more susceptible, but we regularly see adult ewes and rams affected.
As with all parasites, Barber’s Pole can be controlled with several farm management tools. Some of these will include grazing management, both length of pasture grazed and using different species to decrease pastoral larval contamination, breeding more resilient sheep, use of crops and alternative forages and an effective, rational animal health plan.
A lot of people will have you believe that preventing Barber’s Pole is easy and that all you need to do is use this drench or that drench. However, there are several other factors to consider, such as other parasite species that can be causing disease, emerging or diagnosed drench resistance, farm workload over the summer period, other diseases such as viral pneumonia/pleurisy that may be production limiting.
The best way to prevent parasitism on farm is to talk to your vet and have a farm specific parasite strategy in place to prevent disease outbreaks.