Those dirty cows…

Myrtleford Times - - REGIONAL EXTRA -

AU­TUMN calv­ing time is creep­ing up on us very quickly, and with it all the prob­lems we see in freshly calved cows.

One of the most com­mon (and con­fus­ing) prob­lems can be re­tained pla­centa and what to do about it.

In most cows, the pla­centa or “fe­tal mem­branes” sep­a­rate eas­ily and are passed within a few hours of giv­ing birth.

How­ever, a small per­cent­age of cows don’t pass th­ese mem­branes.

Cows that have a dif­fi­cult birth, have twins, have pre­ma­ture calves or de­velop milk fever are at a higher risk of re­tained mem­branes.

We say a cow has re­tained fe­tal mem­branes when they haven’t been passed within 12 hours of calv­ing. And this is where things can get com­pli­cated. Of those cows that have re­tained mem­branes, about half pass them with­out any prob­lems or in­ter­ven­tion needed.

This may take up to 10 days, dur­ing which time it’s im­por­tant to keep a close watch on the cow in case she be­comes un­well.

If the cow has mem­branes hang­ing th­ese can be tied in a knot or trimmed to level with the vulva to keep them clean and stop bac­te­ria track­ing up into the uterus.

Tra­di­tion­ally, farm­ers and vets used to re­move mem­branes by pulling on them, but we now know this causes more dam­age to the uterus than just leav­ing them in place and is a big no no!

The big­gest prob­lem with re­tained mem­branes is that they can re­sult in an in­fec­tion in the uterus in some cows.

Uter­ine in­fec­tion can range from so mild it goes un­no­ticed to life threat­en­ing. It can also re­duce the fer­til­ity of the cow. If you no­tice a foul smell from the mem­branes or a cow looks un­well (sunken eyes, off food, off her milk) it’s im­por­tant to get in touch with your vet to give the cow the best chance of sur­viv­ing and get­ting back in calf.

El­iz­a­beth Jones BVetBiol/BVSc, Wan­garatta Ve­teri­nary Clinic

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