Metritis: forgotten about your fresh cows?

Up to 40% of cows will develop metritis after calving1 – early identification and treatment will improve future fertility and production.

What is metritis?

Metritis is infection of the uterus, caused by a mixture of bacteria that enter the reproductive tract during the course of the birthing process or just after the calf has been born. These bacteria damage the lining of the uterus and can make the cow sick.

Why is metritis such a problem?

Metritis has an impact on production in a number of ways:

1. Reduced production

- Reduced dry matter intake and Milk Yield

2. Impaired fertility

- Delayed calving to 1st heat

- Delayed calving to conception

- Reduced conception rates

- Increased cystic ovarian disease

- Increased culling for failure to conceive

3. Increased culling in early lactation

Which cows are most likely to get metritis?

Some cows are more susceptible to developing clinical metritis :

  • Those that have retained fœtal membranes (placenta)
  • Assisted calvings
  • Cows and heifers calving twins
  • Cows that have had Milk fever
  • Following an abortion
  • Following the birth of a dead calf
  • Cows that have lost a lot of weight and are in negative energy balance

What are the symptoms of metritis?

The symptoms of metritis are:

  • Depressed appearance: Sunken eyes, cold extremities, weakness and depression can be signs of severe toxaemia and metritis. A veterinary clinical examination should be carried out urgently.
  • Elevated tail head: A vaginal examination may be required to check for retained foetal membranes and/or vaginal damage that could indicate metritis.
  • Fever: A temperature >39.5ºC suggests the presence of infection such as metritis and/or mastitis. The cow should have a veterinary clinical examination.
  • Decreased milk yield: Due to the presence of infection and associated pain and discomfort.
  • Foetid vaginal discharge: Normal post-calving discharge is dark red and odourless. The presence of red-brown foul smelling or excessive purulent discharge suggests metritis is present.
  • Loss of appetite and poor rumen fill: Depressed appetite/poor rumen fill in post- calving period can be the first sign of metritis due to fever/toxaemia. A veterinary clinical examination should be carried out to establish cause which could include metritis, mastitis or a displaced abomasum for example.

Treating a cow with metritis

Spotting the symptoms of metritis as early as possible ensures that the cow can be treated promptly, therefore improving the chances of treatment success and subsequent fertility.

Preventing metritis involves investigating the risk factors present on your farm and correcting any underlying nutritional, environmental or management factors that may be contributing to the problem – speak to your vet about what could help prevent metritis on your farm.

Speak to your vet about the best treatment for cows with metritis on your farm and if you would like further training for you and your staff about spotting cases of metritis early.


11. Sheldon (2009) Defining post partum uterine disease and the mechanisms of infection and immunity in the female reproductive tract in cattle. Biology of Reproduction 81, 1025-32

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