Retained Placenta In Beef Cattle

Retained placenta in a cow is typically defined as failure to expel the fetal membranes within 24 hours after following parturition or birth of the calf. Under normal circumstances, expulsion of the placenta occurs within eight hours after the calf has been born. The point as which nourishment from the cow is passed to the fetus through the placenta is called a placentome. This placentome is made of the joining of the cotyledon (fetal side) and the caruncle (cow side). When the placenta is retained, the cotyledons do not detach from the caruncles on the uterus during parturition. While retained placenta is rare, they can create a potential for problems.

A retained placenta permits manure and microorganisms to enter the uterus. When a cow lays down, bacteria within the dirt or mud she is laying in also can enter the uterus and can cause infection, resulting in negative consequences. Infections within the uterus can cause fever, weight loss, and in severe cases can cause death. An infected and inflamed uterus results in the cow taking longer to clean and be prepared for the next breeding season, resulting in delayed rebreeding of that cow, or that cow coming up as open. Ultimately, retained placenta can risk reproductive efficiency and can lose operation’s profit potential.

Causes of retain placenta include 1) dystocia or calving difficulty due to too large of a calf, twins, or abnormal presentation of the fetus, 2) poor nutrition from inadequate energy or protein during pregnancy, deficiency in Vitamin A, Selenium, Iodine, or Vitamin E, 3) stress, obesity, or genetics, or 4) infectious diseases such as Leptospirosis, IBR virus, BVD virus, or Brucellosis.

Proper herd health and nutrition, along with a mineral program will prevent most problems that retained placenta is associated with. If you are experiencing issues as a result of retained placenta, contact your veterinarian for best treatment options.


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