A worm egg count is the most accurate way to know the worm status of your goats so that you can make an informed decision about whether drenching is required.
Most sheep and goat producers do not conduct these tests themselves. Instead they collect dung samples from their animals and send them to a testing laboratory (lab).
Costs vary across laboratories and each one will have different requirements regarding the type of kit used for collecting and sending samples to the laboratory. Give the testing labs in your state a call beforehand to find out their requirements and costs.
While all labs will do individual tests, bulk tests that have sampled 20–40 animals in a mob (rather than the usual 10 in a kit) are more accurate, but only when the animals in the mob are very similar, e.g. does of a similar type and management, and who have been run together. The egg count result on such a bulk test will be the average of the sampled group and will give a better indication of the average egg count of the whole mob.
However, smallholders often have mobs with animals of different sexes, ages, breeds and drenching and paddock histories. In such situations, the egg counts of individuals could vary considerably and some counts could be much higher than the mob average, so testing individuals is particularly important. (Next month our feature article will discuss bulk versus individual counts.)
Most WEC kits are for 10 worm egg counts; you can put samples from 10 individuals in one kit—each individual in a separate bottle or bag.
Bottles/bags should be labelled 1 to 10—NOT with animal, paddock names or tag numbers. You should keep a list of the animals that correspond to the numbers 1 to 10 on the samples.
You can collect dung samples from the ground provided they are fresh—less than an hour old. To test specific individuals you will need to see them pass the dung and collect that straightway into a bottle/bag identified to the individual, or you will need to collect the dung directly from the animal. If the latter, here are instructions: Collecting dung samples from individual sheep or goats.
When the results come back (egg counts are usually emailed back within 24 hours of the sample receit at the lab) use the Drench Decision Guide for your region to help you decide whether drenching is required.