Dr Chris van Dijk

Fresh cows are fragile cows. At a time when they are ramping up to hit peak milk production, they’re also at their greatest risk of faltering. Good uterine health is critical to help launch cows on a healthy, productive course after calving.

Acute postpartum metritis ranks among the top health problems of fresh cows. At least one-fourth of all fresh cows experience acute metritis, an inflammation of the entire uterine wall caused by bacterial infection. And, for cows with retained fetal membranes, the incidence leaps to 80% and higher.

Metritis can cause: Prolonged days open, due to lower conception and estrous detection rates, Increased culling rate, resulting in higher replacement costs, Higher insemination costs, due to repeat artificial insemination (AI) services and Greater costs for veterinary interventions, plus income lost from milk that must be discarded when using extra-label therapies
Metritis makes the cow more susceptible to ketosis, displaced abomasum and other postpartum ailments. The end results? Impaired fertility – either temporary or permanent. Severe cases can result in death.

Metritis also has a profound effect on fresh-cow performance and profitability. At a time when dry-matter intake is critical to meet the demands of lactation, affected cows become depressed and go off feed.  Even with metritis treatment, their production levels never caught up to healthy herdmates.



Just after calving, the uterus is an ideal environment for bacterial growth. During the first week postpartum, bacterial contamination occurs in up to 90 percent of cows. Whether or not full-blown metritis will develop depends on three factors: The number and virulence of the bacteria present, the condition of the uterus and the strength of the cow’s natural defense mechanisms

Metritis is commonly associated with uterine contamination from Arcanobacterium pyogenes, either alone or in conjunction with other
pathogenic organisms: Fusobacterium necrophorum, Bacteroides spp and Escherichia coli.

The following routine occurrences can overwhelm the fresh cow’s defense system and increase the chances of metritis: Twins, dead calf, difficulty calving, improper calving assistance and milk fever.

Inadequate nutrition can interfere with uterine involution after calving. Rapid involution is key to naturally expelling fluid, placental membranes and bacteria from the reproductive tract.

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

Uterine cultures can confirm the presence of bacterial infection, but in the field, the disease is usually diagnosed by these symptoms: Fever (39.5 degrees Celsius or higher), A foul-smelling, watery vaginal discharge, Decreased appetite, Dehydration, Depression and Reduced milk production

Some uterine discharge for about two weeks after calving is a normal sign of healthy involution and evacuation of the uterus. But when a foul odor and fever accompany this discharge, metritis almost always is the cause. Fever often surfaces 24 to 36 hours before other clinical signs.


Prevention and early intervention are key strategies to limit the economic impact of metritis. Even the best-managed herds are likely to have some cows affected by metritis. Use these management practices to decrease the incidence of metritis: Good nutrition, Clean, dry calving facilities and Sanitary calving assistance

Early detection and prompt treatment are critical to limiting the damaging effects of metritis. It is therefore recommended taking rectal temperatures of all fresh cows for a full 10 days after calving. Early detection allows for early intervention with veterinary-prescribed treatments.


A new metritis treatment option recently became available – one that’s safe, effective and easy to use. A popular dairy antibiotic (available through your veterinarian) has been approved for treating acute postpartum metritis in lactating dairy cows.

This already widely prescribed for pneumonia and foot rot – now is approved to treat metritis via intramuscular or subcutaneous injection. Better still, no milk discard is required when we use this product as directed. Speak to your vet.

Disclaimer: Zoetis takes no responsibility for any claims that may arise from information contained in this information sheet. Individual situations may vary from location to location and it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian before any management or treatment decisions are implemented.

Vrywaring: Zoetis neem geen verantwoordelikheid vir enige eise wat mag voortspruit uit inligting vervat in hierdie inligtingsdokument. Individuele situasies varieer van plek tot plek en dit word voorgestel dat u eers u veearts kontak alvorens enige bestuurs- of behandelingsbesluite geïmplementeer word.