Those dirty cows…
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