By visiting veterinary student, Grace Woodward

Maximising Reproductive Efficiency
Maximizing your profits on a dairy farm depends on reproductive efficiency. A big part of this is getting cows back in calf quickly. Uterine infections are common after calving and delay the time to the next pregnancy. While pus is present, the cow won’t get in calf. Checking all cows for pus 7-28 days post calving and treating infections is the key to improving reproductive performance.

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 vagina. 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.

Risk Factors for Endometritis

Reduced general health Heifers
> Skinny cows
> Poor nutrition
> Milk fever
> Downer cows
> General stress such adverse weather, transport, overcrowding, other diseases

Reduced uterine health
Twins
Difficult birth
Uterine tears
Dead calf
Assisted calving
Uterine prolapse
Retained fetal membranes

Diagnosis of Endometritis
metracheckIt is best to check all cows for endometritis 7-28 days after calving to make sure infections can be cleared up in time for joining. 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 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 applied directly to the site of infection. Metricure is specially designed for this use. It targets the right bacterial species, has minimal irritation to the uterus and has no 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. If a calf needs to be pulled, good hygiene practices should be used.

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.

Please contact the vets at Warrnambool Veterinary to discuss when to check your herd prior to mating.

References

  • Parkinson, TJ, Vermunt, JJ and Malmo, J, 2010,Diseases of Cattle in Autralasia, published by the New Zealand Veterinary Assciation Foundation (VetLearn®)
  • LeBlanc, SJ, 2008, ‘Postpartum uterine disease and dairy herd reproductive performance: A review’, The Veterinary Journal, Vol 176, pp 102-114.
  • Runciman, DJ, Anderson, GA and Malmo, J, 2009, ‘Comparison of two methods of detecting purulent vaginal discharge in postpartum dairy cows and effect of intrauterine cepharin on reproductive performance’, Australian Veterinary Journal, Vol 87, pp 369-378.
  • Runciman, DJ, Anderson, GA, Malmo, J and Davis, GM, 2008, ‘Effect of intrauterine treatment with cephapirin on the reproductive performance of seasonaly calving dairy cows at risk of endometritis following periparturientdisease’, Australia Veterinary Journal, Vol 86, pp 250-258.