Much of our efforts on the dairy involve watching, tracking and monitoring performance of the herd and individual animals. When it comes to monitoring metritis—a costly and time-intensive disease with far-reaching repercussions—a consistent protocol for monitoring animals is essential to proactively preventing disease.

Dr. Overton Photo
Dr. Mike Overton, Dairy Professor at the University of Georgia—College of Veterinary Medicine, shares how to consistently monitor uterine health to proactively prevent disease.

“In evaluating transition management and fresh cow health, the key is to ask appropriate and timely questions and then find data that answers the questions,” explains Dr. Michael Overton, Dairy Professor at the University of Georgia – College of Veterinary Medicine. “Mistakes in monitoring and in interpretation of results are often made. Distinguishing between normal and abnormal changes are elusive and frequently problematic concepts.”

Prefresh Pen Offers Answers

One critical thing to monitor that is directly linked to future uterine health and incidence of metritis is dry matter intake (DMI) in the prefresh pen.

Research¹ has been published that illustrates the link between precalving DMI, immune function and postpartum disorders,” shares Dr. Overton. “The odds of severe metritis increased by 2.87 for every 2.2-pound decrease in DMI during the close-up period.”

Fresh Cow Follies Plague Milking Herd

In the fresh cow pen metritis is one of the most common diseases cows experience. Researchers estimate as much as 20% of the herd is diagnosed with metritis while subclinical endometritis may impact as much as 50% of the herd!²

“Effective screening programs that focus on appetite, attitude, body temperature, rumen fill and function, manure quality, udder fill and presence or absence of uterine discharge can help detect and treat problems promptly,” shares Dr. Overton.

As part of an effective uterine health screening program, Dr. Overton recommends tracking the following areas in the fresh cow pen:

  • DMI. As with prefresh cows, DMI is one of the simplest and earliest indicators of changes in health and performance in fresh cows. Aim to weigh feed delivered and feed refused and target a five percent refusal rate. DMI should be at least 38 pounds for Holsteins and greater than 27 pounds for Jerseys, but these levels will vary based on how long cows stay in the fresh pen.
  • Disease and health monitoring. Dairies should consistently record and monitor major fresh cow events, such as metritis, milk fever, displaced abomasums, retained placentas, mastitis and lameness. In many cases the incidence of one disease can open the door for other health problems, so identifying and treating diseases early can prevent additional health concerns.

From Monitoring to Prevention

While monitoring disease today can set a herd baseline to compare future incidence, prevention over treatment is the most cost-effective and successful solution. The ration can more effectively prevent disease, by encouraging DMI through the transition period and delivering the nutrients cows need to maintain immune function.

Sound Uterine Health

One nutritional tool that can help improve uterine health and immune function is MEGALAC®-R Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids. The bypass source of EFAs has been proven to reduce the incidence of endometritis, leading to healthier animals in the fresh cow pen³. Sound uterine health sets the foundation for earlier cycling, stronger heats and earlier pregnancy.

“Key components of successful transition include the implementation of herd management guidelines that focus on prevention, along with real time monitoring of key processes that impact the transition cow, and evaluating the results of the program through the examination of key outcomes,” explains Dr. Overton. “Without attention towards monitoring processes and working towards prevention of problems, efforts by management become reactionary in nature and the dairy is forced into damage control mode.”

As you look to improve uterine health, prevention over treatment leads to the greatest results. By delivering a high-quality ration the transition cow can’t refuse and monitoring performance and behavior, you can more effectively manage uterine diseases, translating to healthier, more profitable fresh cows.

Access the full article by Dr. Overton on monitoring uterine health in transition cows.

1 Huzzey et al. Prepartum Behavior and Dry Matter Intake Identify Dairy Cows at Risk for Metritis. 2007, J Dairy Sci 2007;90:3220-3233.

2 Overton M. Managing and monitoring fresh cows for improved reproductive success, in Proceedings, 2010 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council; 13 – 24.

3 Bowen AJ. The Effects of Dietary Linoleic and Linolenic Acids on Reproductive Performance in Holstein Cows. [Master’s thesis]. Department of Animal Sciences, University of Arizona; 2008.