Metritis is a common disease challenge facing fresh cows on many dairies, and producers should actively look for ways to manage its impact on their herd’s performance. Often diagnosed within the first 10 days in milk, clinical metritis is defined as a uterine infection accompanied by inflammation involving all layers of the uterus. It is characterized by the presence of foul smelling, watery vaginal discharge. Fever also may be noticed, with temperatures of 103 degrees F or higher within the first 10 days in milk. Incidence rates range from 10 percent to 30 percent in herds.

But do cows with metritis always show fever? According to a study conducted at the University of Florida, the answer appears to be no. A total of 450 calvings was observed, and cows were sorted into a normal or difficult calving group. From days three to 13 post-partum, rectal temperature was taken early in the morning. Cows that had either a fever (rectal temperature at or greater than 103 degrees F) or appeared sick (depressed, eyes tented), were examined for the presence of a serous, brown-colored, fetid, vaginal discharge.

Cows began displaying fever two to three days before metritis was actually diagnosed. However, while overall incidence of metritis was 21 percent (94 out of 450), only 39 cows had a fever at diagnosis, indicating that many cows with metritis may not present with the typical definition of fever (rectal temperature at or greater than 103 degrees F).

The results of this study suggest the importance of using more than just fever to diagnose fresh cow and reproductive challenges like metritis. Farm employees should learn to identify and treat sick cows early and correctly. This diligence also should include monitoring the attitude and behavior of the cow, condition of the uterus, as well as rectal temperature.

Source: Pfizer Animal Health