Dealing with retained placenta and infections after calving

Throughout the calving season, farmers should monitor their cows to ensure that they successfully pass the placenta (cleanings) post calving.

There will be cases where a cow that has calved retained her placenta for longer than 24 hours (known as retained foetal membrane).

It’s in these scenarios when farmers need to keep a close and watchful eye over their cows as it can lead to infection.

An infection of the uterus after calving is called endometritis or metritis and may result in severe illness.

According to Teagasc, it can also have an impact on the future fertility of the cow – as a mild disease may go unnoticed but impairs fertility by making the womb unsuitable for the embryo to implant.

A farmer should aim to avoid these infections of the womb at all costs.

What should I do?

One simple bit of advice is to have the adequate equipment and facilities when it comes to calving. Ensure that good hygiene is also maintained, especially if you are handling the cow.

Keep an eye on your ‘at risk’ cases of cows that may retain their placenta – such as cows that had twins, difficult calvings, caesarian sections, etc. These females need to be observed for signs of sickness or being ‘off form’ and farmers should consult a vet if this occurs.

One indication of infection is seeing discharge coming from the vulva. 

If you are still suspicious of an infection, get the cow scanned or handled as this will pick up any evidence of it being present.

Farmers should get the advice of their local vet if they identify an issue, as these infections can be difficult to cure in some cases.