Farm Talk

Livestock

January 19, 2010

Knowing the facts about prolapse in cows

Prolapses occur occasionally in beef cows. Most prolapses occur very near the time of calving. Two distinct kinds of prolapse exist.

1) Vaginal prolapses are those that occur in very late gestation. Vaginal prolapse is as the name implies, a protruding of the vagina through the vulva and exposed to sun, wind, and infectious pathogens. Vaginal prolapses are very repeatable. In other words, if the vaginal prolapse is repaired, the cow calves and rebreeds, then she is very likely to prolapse again next year. This type of prolapse is known to have a genetic component, which means that daughters of cows that have this problem will have an increased likelihood of suffering a vaginal prolapse themselves. Therefore, when the producer finds a cow with this malady, she should be marked for culling and daughters should not be kept as replacements. Certainly bull calves from this cow could also pass the genetic characteristics on to his offspring and proliferate the problem within a herd.

2) Uterine prolapses occur at or shortly after calving. Many times they occur with a difficult birth. The uterus is literally pulled through the birth canal with the calf or the afterbirth and again exposed to the weather elements, potential injury, and certainly infectious agents. Uterine prolapses, when repaired by proper veterinary attention, can have a very successful result. Cows with properly cared-for uterine prolapses are no more likely than others to have a prolapse next year. Because of the trauma, possible infection, and recovery time, cows with a uterine prolapse may take longer to re-conceive for the next year's calf. This often means that these cows will be late-bred or non-pregnant at weaning time when pregnancy checks are made. This may be a viable reason for culling these cows, but keeping pregnant cows that have experienced a uterine prolapse is not a bad risk. If you find a cow that you suspect has prolapsed, call your veterinarian immediately and discuss the best options for her in your herd.

Research (Patterson, et al, 1981) from the USDA station at Miles City, Mont., reported that 153 calvings of 13,296 calvings from a 14-year span were associated with prolapse of the reproductive tract. Of those 153 prolapses, 124 (81 percent) were vaginal prolapses and 29 (19 percent) were uterine prolapses. The subsequent pregnancy rate following prolapse among first calf heifers was 28 percent and the pregnancy rate among adult cows following a prolapse was only 57.9 percent.

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