OVERVIEW OF ENDOMETRITIS

Endometritis is a mild, chronic infection of the uterus. It is very common, affecting up to 40% of post-calving cows. The uterus contains pus and there may be discharge from the vulva. The cows do not seem sick and will still eat, milk and cycle normally. However until the infection clears, they will be unlikely to get pregnant. 

Some dirty cows are noticed by farmers if they have vaginal discharge or are obviously smelly. However, many do not show any outward signs. Time and money can be wasted in trying to join cows with underlying infections. 

There are other types of uterine infections. Pyometra is another type that occurs when the cervix closes and pus is trapped in the uterus, stopping the cow from cycling. Metritis is a severe infection that can cause sick cows, milk drop, fever and even death. These will be treated differently by the vet. 

Reduced general health

  • Cows or heifers in poor body condition
  • Poor nutrition
  • Milk fever
  • Downer cows
  • General stress such as: adverse weather, transport, overcrowding, other diseases

Reduced uterine health

  • Twins
  • Difficult birth
  • Uterine tears
  • Dead calf
  • Assisted calving/caesarean
  • Retained foetal membranes

Diagnosis of endometritis 

It is best to check all cows for endometritis 7-28 days after calving to make sure infections can be cleared up in time for the upcoming mating season. Some farmers prefer to only check the “at-risk” cows or those with obvious vaginal discharge, however this means a lot of cases will be missed. 

Diagnosis requires a vet to examine the reproductive tract for pus. A grading system can be used depending on the type of discharge found. There are a few different techniques used and your vet will decide which one to use depending on the situation. 

Treatment
Intra-uterine antibiotics are generally considered the most effective treatment. The vet passes a catheter through the cervix into the uterus so that the antibiotic is administered directly to the site of infection. Metricure is specially designed for this use.  It targets the most-likely bacterial species causing the infection, has minimal irritation to the uterus and has zero milk withhold. 

Usually one treatment is enough to clear up the infection. In some cases, a second application may be needed. Preferably, all cases should be rechecked in 1-2 weeks to ensure the infection has resolved, especially for high-grade infections. 

Without treatment, endometritis will usually resolve with time, especially if it is a low-grade infection. However, it may take several weeks and cows will be slow to get in calf. This results in increased mean calving to conception time, longer joining and calving periods and an overall reduced reproductive efficiency of the herd. This is why early treatment is recommended. 

Prevention
Maintaining good general health and nutrition is very important. Make sure all cows are well fed and maintain good body condition. Good hygiene practices should be used in all assisted births. Speak with our veterinary team about techniques for assisting calves during and after birth. 

However, even on a well-managed farm, endometritis is very common. Early diagnosis and treatment is important to maximize herd health, improve reproductive efficiency and increase your profits. 

Discuss the development of specific treatment protocols with your vet to treat common problems like endometritis.

Please contact the Farm Desk on 5561 7666 to discuss when to check your herd prior to mating.