When it comes to metritis — a costly and time-intensive disease with far-reaching repercussions — a consistent protocol for monitoring animals is essential to proactively preventing the disease.

In evaluating transition management and fresh cow health, the key is to ask appropriate and timely questions and then find data that answers the questions. Mistakes in monitoring and in interpretation of results are often made. Distinguishing between normal and abnormal changes are elusive and frequently problematic concepts.

To effectively monitor uterine health and proactively prevent the disease, implement the following practices into your assessment program:

  • Watch dry matter intake closely. One key indicator directly linked to future uterine health and incidence of metritis is dry matter intake (DMI) in the prefresh pen. Published research1 has identified a close link between precalving DMI, immune function and postpartum disorders. The odds of severe metritis increased by 2.87 times for every 2.2-pound.decrease in DMI during the close-up period.

In the fresh cow pen, weigh feed delivered and feed refused, with a target refusal rate of 5 percent. DMI should be at least 38 pounds for Holsteins and greater than 27 pounds for Jerseys, but these levels will vary based on how long cows stay in the fresh pen.

  • Feed cows for proactive uterine disease prevention. The ration can more effectively prevent disease by encouraging DMI throughout the transition period and delivering the nutrients cows need to support proper immune function. One nutritional tool that can help improve uterine health and immune function is Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Rumen bypass EFAs are proven to reduce the incidence of endometritis, leading to healthier animals in the fresh cow pen. Sound uterine health sets the foundation for earlier cycling, stronger heats and earlier pregnancy2.
  • Know the incidence rates. In the fresh cow pen metritis is one of the most common diseases cows experience. Researchers estimate as much as 20 percent of the herd is diagnosed with metritis while subclinical endometritis may impact as much as 50 percent of the herd! 3
  • Record major health incidents. Dairies should consistently record and monitor major fresh cow events, such as metritis, milk fever, displaced abomasums, retained placentas, mastitis and lameness. In many cases the incidence of one disease can open the door for other health problems, so identifying and treating diseases early can prevent additional health concerns.
  • Screen cows appropriately. Effective screening programs will assess appetite, attitude, body temperature, rumen fill and function, manure quality, udder fill and presence or absence of uterine discharge. Monitoring these areas can help detect and treat problems promptly.
  • Set a herd baseline. While monitoring disease today can set a herd baseline to compare future incidence, prevention over treatment is the most cost-effective and successful solution.

By delivering a high-quality ration the transition cow can’t refuse and monitoring performance and behavior, you can more effectively manage uterine diseases, translating to healthier, more profitable fresh cows.

Click here to learn more about monitoring uterine health for peak reproductive performance.

1 Huzzey et al. Prepartum Behavior and Dry Matter Intake Identify Dairy Cows at Risk for Metritis. 2007, J Dairy Sci  2007;90:3220-3233.

2 Bowen AJ. The Effects of Dietary Linoleic and Linolenic Acids on Reproductive Performance in Holstein Cows. [Master’s thesis]. Department of Animal Sciences, University of Arizona; 2008.

3 Overton M. Managing and monitoring fresh cows for improved reproductive success, in Proceedings, 2010 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council; 13 – 24.

Source: veterinarian Gene Boomer, manager, Field Technical Services, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition