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Collecting dung samples from individual sheep or goats

Why do samples need to be collected directly from the sheep or goat?

Individual samples are collected directly from the rectum of each sheep or goat for a DrenchTest or for genetic assessment of worm resistance, when each sample must be identified to a specific group or individual animal.

What equipment is required?

  • Pre-labelled sample bottles/bags/trays: laboratories usually prefer the containers to be numbered from 1, rather than with sheep ear tag numbers or names of goats.
  • Recording sheet with sample container numbers and a space to record the animal's ear tag number, name or group.
  • Smooth close-fitting gloves.
  • Bucket of soapy water.
  • A place to restrain animals, such as a narrow race.

Other useful equipment or tips:

  • Lubricant: obstetrical lubricant diluted about half and half with water, alternatively paraffin or vegetable oil can be substituted.
  • Table to hold the bucket and lubricant (or a trolley that can be moved along the race).
  • Large esky with ice bricks for samples (if collecting for more than an hour in hot weather).
  • An assistant (to record and pass containers).
  • Remove rings on your collection hand and ensure your fingernails are short and smooth.
  • The individual race, the behaviour of the animals and the fitness of your knees, hips and back will determine the position adopted for collection, but could include:
    • crouching behind and facing the animals.
    • standing hard against the sheep’s or goat’s hindquarters facing backward, bend and work between your legs or to one side of both of your legs.
    • bending over the race from the side.
  • It is much more difficult to collect samples when the faeces is very runny. Aim to have the mob on the driest, lowest quality feed (more roughage) for the week prior to collection so that the faeces become firmer.

How is a sample collected?

  1. Wearing gloves insert the fingertips of your collection hand into the lubricant then wipe some onto the sheep’s or goat’s anus so that the finger can be inserted more easily (this is optional but can make the process easier).
  2. Insert the pointer finger or middle finger into the anus, carefully extending it into the rectum as far as it will go and keeping the finger along/parallel to the wall of the rectum to avoid pushing dung further back or tearing the rectum. If a fold or constriction in the wall of the rectum is felt, take care not to tear or puncture this. Note: Some people insert a spoon or a tube into the rectum, however these methods are not endorsed in all states under animal welfare codes.
  3. Feel for dung: firm or hard pellets will be easy to feel if present, but very soft or watery dung may be difficult to feel.
  4. Carefully hook a fingertip—not the whole finger, so as to avoid pushing through the wall of the rectum—around as much dung as possible and drag it out into your other gloved hand (for later transfer to the sample container) or directly into the container.
  5. Repeat this, applying more lubricant as needed, until sufficient dung is collected. For people with thin fingers, and if the animals are not small, using both fingers together may yield more dung.
  6. If no dung can be felt, set that animal aside for 15 minutes or more before trying to collect again.
  7. Between animals, rinse the gloved hand in the soapy water, replacing the water as it becomes too dirty.
  8. If a large number of samples are to be collected on a hot day, place them into an esky.
  9. Complete the submission form and packaging as per the instructions provided by the laboratory.

Also:

  • Contact the laboratory well in advance of collection if you will have larger jobs (over 50 samples).
  • Collect samples at a time that they can be promptly delivered to the laboratory or, if posted, will not be delayed in the post over a weekend. Use priority or if possible, Express Post, not the regular postal service, which can be delayed by up to 2 working days.

* Other WormBoss fact sheets can be found under ‘Tests & Tools’.