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The Moo News

Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care                                                    August 2001

Hi Folks,

            Another month having some hazy, hot and humid days. Fresh cows have suffered, that's for sure. One main outcome of a calving cow during a hot day is major stress to her entire system. This lowers her immunity and overall strength. Oftentimes, a cow won't clean (pass the afterbirth) which makes for a slower start nearly always. There are many factors which can cause a cow not to clean: low calcium/ milk fever, assisted/ difficult calving, pinched nerve/ calving paralysis, low Vitamin E/ Selenium blood levels, twins/ calving in early, and coliform mastitis. A cow with a "second tail" during a hot spell is heading for trouble, especially if being fed ensiled feeds, most notably corn silage, in my opinion. Lack of good exercise compounds the situation and very often leads to a twisted stomach at about 8-14 days fresh, when the uterus becomes like a cesspool with the retained afterbirth decomposing inside the cow. I see this situation time and time again. From the hundreds of DA surgeries I've done, I am convinced that the main reasons for a twisted stomach are the two ingredients of a bad uterus and reliance on ensiled feeds.

            So what to do about a cow in the summer heat that hasn't cleaned? Depending on your philosophy, give either oxytocin a few times daily in the first 2 days fresh, or give homeopathic caulophyllum four times daily for the first 4 days fresh. With the oxytocin, the cow may push the cleanings out in a day. This may also happen with the caulophyllum. Normally, I can manually remove the cleanings at day 5 at the earliest, but have seen caulophyllum-treated cows loosen up enough by day 4 to remove them. Each day earlier that a cow finally gets clean, the less chance she will twist. If the uterus starts to stink (usually by day 4, 5 or 6), with or without obvious cleanings still around, the choice is either to put tetracycline pills in the uterus, or to switch to homeopathic pyrogen (3 times daily for 3-5 days) and infuse the uterus with a colostrum-whey product of your choice. Giving a shot of a colostrum-whey product under the skin is much less effective than direct infusion. Infuse the uterus every other day or put tetracycline pills in every other day. If the cow is feverish and slow to eat, either give a bottle of Vitamin C I.V. and aspirin along with pyrogen, or put her on I.V. tetracycline or penicillin I.M.

            Feed lots of real hay to bulk up the rumen and provide the right fuel for the rumen bugs to be happiest. Use a probiotic (lactobacillus, etc.) of your choice, twice daily. Let the cow outside to walk around, so any gas building up in the gastro-intestinal tract has a chance to pass off. I have seen many cows with a terrible uterus do fine if fed primarily from pasture, and hay when inside, for the first 10-14 days fresh. They won't produce as much early on, but they will stay healthier—I guarantee it (and you all know I don't guarantee much!)

            Oftentimes I'm called to see if a cow cleaned, because no cleanings are visible. Unfortunately, if the cleanings for some reason snap off—ripped off by a dog or too early an attempt at manual removal (before day 5)—they get trapped down in and are the cause of a lot of problems and need the attention described above. By day 12-14, the therapeutic medicinal use of Lutalyse is of greatest benefit, if you choose to use it. If you are going the other path, infusions and homeopathic remedies nearly always give a pus and mucous discharge by that point. The chance of a twisted stomach due to a bad uterus is greatly diminished at this point. A twisted stomach after this is usually due to pushing the cow for maximal production and not providing enough length of fiber, creating rumen acidosis, lower cud chewing, and impairing the subsequent motility of the rest of the GI tract.

            A couple last points regarding a bad uterus:

1)               Belly and udder edema/ swelling persist longer than usual.

2)               One quarter will often have a few flakes or high CMT. Seeing these two signs can tip you off that the cow hasn't yet totally cleaned. Imagine that—a connection between the udder and the uterus in a mammal.  

One final thought—no matter what methods you choose, make sure that uterus is ready to go by day 30. A uterine infection carried long into lactation can be very difficult to treat regardless of therapeutic preference.

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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