Keeping endometritis in check

3 September 2020

DairyNZ’s Samantha Tennent looks at how to reduce the impact of endometritis on your herd’s reproductive performance.

‘Dirty cows’ (those with endometritis) have lower conception rates and lower in-calf rates. If they do get pregnant, that can take two to three weeks longer than cows without endometritis, which also affects their production and reproduction next  season.

Samantha Tennant, DairyNZ Developer

Endometritis is an infection or inflammation of the uterus that persists beyond the third week of calving. Recent research estimates at least 20 percent of cows have endometritis about four weeks before mating starts, but there is a large and unexplained variation in the prevalence of endometritis among herds.

Finding ‘dirty cows’

Endometritis is usually diagnosed by evaluating the presence of pus in the vagina (assumed to be from the uterus) with the aid of a speculum, the Metricheck tool, or a gloved hand.

The most at-risk cows are generally those that had an assisted calving, retained foetal membranes, twins, a stillborn calf, vaginal discharge after calving, or an abortion. And evidence suggests endometritis is more likely to occur in cows with a body condition score (BCS) of 4 or less at calving, cows with ketosis, or older cows.

While some farms will draft their at-risk cows to be checked, the causes of endometritis are largely unknown and many cows with endometritis have no history of problems around calving. Therefore, whole-herd metrichecking is recommended.

Herd metrichecking is commonly performed in two ways. The first is to complete a whole-herd metricheck once, around a month before mating starts. The second is to begin around three weeks after the first cow calves, and repeat metrichecking about every three weeks, so part of the herd is checked roughly three times (referred to as batch metrichecking).

By metrichecking the whole herd before mating as well, you’ll pick up any cows that may have been missed or haven’t responded to early treatments.

Treating and preventing

During metrichecking, positive cows can be drafted and  treated by your veterinarian. Treating infected cows, usually with intra-uterine antibiotics, will improve fertility but the treatment takes time to work.

Uterine infections should be treated at least four weeks before mating starts. This gives affected cows the  best chance of getting in calf early in the mating period.

The best way to prevent endometritis is through effective management of the transition period, by optimising BCS, and minimising the number of cows with diseases around calving.

Key Points

  • Endometritis is a uterine disease that affects at least one in four cows, but the percentage of affected cows varies widely between
  • It reduces reproductive performance, and a farm’s overall efficiency and
  • DairyNZ recommends metrichecking your whole herd and treating infected cows

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