Metritis is one of the most common fresh cow diseases. Typically diagnosed during the first 10 days in milk, metritis is a uterine infection that can affect up to 30 percent of a dairy herd.1
“After calving, cows are uniquely challenged by a suppressed immune system and negative energy balance at the same time they’re exposed to many diseases,” says Doug Hammon, DVM, Ph.D., senior manager, Cattle Technical Services, Pfizer Animal Health. “With all of these factors working against them, it is easy to see why fresh cows are so fragile and susceptible to metritis.”
Metritis can cause a decline in fertility, lower milk production, a greater risk of culling and increased labor and treatment costs, adding up to more than $350 per cow for each case of metritis.2 Although it cannot be completely prevented, metritis should be identified and treated early to reduce its effects.
What to look for
Hammon suggests thoroughly screening fresh cows for the first 10 days after calving and quickly treating those detected with metritis to prevent more costly consequences. Here are some key steps for a complete screening:
- Check the udder for fullness before milking. Udders on fresh cows should be full and tight.
- Watch for major drops in production from one milking to the next.
- Examine uterine discharge and look for a red-brown or watery discharge accompanied by a strong, foul odor.
- Assess the cow’s attitude and demeanor. Look for “depressed cows” with sunken, crusty eyes, nasal discharge or cold, lowered ears.
- Look for cows who may be dehydrated or who aren’t eating properly.
- Check for fever. A temperature of 103° F or higher could be a symptom.
- Keep cows comfortable. Don’t keep cows locked up for more than an hour during health checks.
What to do next
Cows with metritis usually can stay in the fresh pen and should not be exposed to cows in a hospital area unless the case is complicated. Work with your veterinarian to check any cows flagged as possible metritis cases to confirm with a diagnosis. A veterinarian can examine the cow by checking her temperature, checking for a displaced abomasum and rectally palpating the cow to assess her manure and uterine discharge.
How to treat
Once diagnosed with metritis, it is important to treat quickly to avoid other infections and return the fresh cow to peak production.