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Metritis - Careful assessment required on placenta removal and cleaning


After calving vets always watch out for cows that hold their placenta. These cows are at risk of uterine infections but an increased overall herd incidence could be an indication of other issues.

An increase in cows holding their placenta can greatly affect overall health and fertility in the herd.

We also should be watching for increase in cases of metritis (uterine infections) in the first three weeks after calving.

While occasional cases can be tolerated, a herd level increase of more than 7pc needs to be investigated.

You can often see these cows' appetites decreasing, making them prone to problems like displaced stomachs because of poor intakes.

Your own vet can make recommendations about individual treatments and washouts for dirty cows. One thing to remember when removing retained placentas is that all the placenta or cleaning needs to be cleared.

My experience is this should be only attempted six to seven days after calving - any other intervention is too early.

The cow needs to be carefully assessed regarding treatments in this six- to seven- day period to prevent them getting sick.

When we see an increase in these conditions (retained cleanings /metritis) I will always investigate three potential causes:

Negative energy/subclinical ketosis;

Hypocalcaemia; and,

Selenium defiency.

This investigation can be done easily on farm by your vet which will help identify any underlying problems.

It is worth mentioning also that calving the cow must be done as cleanly and with as little stress as possible. Always wear gloves and use lube.

Pain killers are extremely important for cows who have difficult calvings, in my experience. A difficult calving will be painful which often can affect appetite and make cows more at risk of metabolic disease.

Tommy Heffernan runs a veterinary practice in Avondale, Co Wicklow

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