This article was #16 of the Top 25 most well-read articles on in 2012. to jump to the article. It was published in the July 20, 2012 Extra. Click here for the full list of the Top 25. Our staff is discovering that our online readers like straightforward, brief articles like this piece by Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition’s Dr. Joel Pankowski. He says stepping up nutrition, monitoring transition cows and keeping good records are three keys to minimizing uterine health disorders.

Pankowski joel
Manager, Field Technical Services / Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition Group

Q. Of the three tips you outlined, which do you think is the most challenging for producers in today’s industry?

These three tips are interdependent. But monitoring transition cows is a significant challenge for many dairies and is an area that deserves extra attention.

That’s because the transition period is full of stressful situations for cows – from the physical effects of calving to negative energy balance – that disrupt immune function and leave them vulnerable to a variety of disorders.

For example, research repeatedly shows that cows with high blood levels of betahydroxybutyrate acid (BHBA) at calving have an increased risk of diseases like ketosis and metritis, lower milk production and impaired early-lactation reproduction.


BHBA levels are one indicator of a cow’s overall metabolic status and reflect the success of her ability to deal with negative energy balance.

Good screening programs help keep transition cows on track and are supported by a properly formulated ration that includes the proven nutritional tool of bypass Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs).

Research shows that EFAs have a positive impact on immune function and reproductive performance when adequately and properly supplied to the cow.

Of course, good transition programs use records to ensure success and to track performance of both management interventions and animals.

—Dr. Joel Pankowsi, Manager, Field Technical Services, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition

Uterine infections are the bane of a dairy cow’s reproductive efficiency. That’s because these infections can lead to reproductive challenges, including greater days open and lower pregnancy rates – which often lead to cows prematurely leaving the herd.

Plus, uterine infections are expensive. A case of metritis, one of the major culprits of uterine disease, may cost a dairy as much as $354, and subclinical metritis can impact as much as 20 percent of the herd.

These could run in a loss of as much as $70,000 per year for a 1,000-cow dairy from metritis infections alone.

Use these three tips to minimize uterine health disorders on your dairy:

1. Step up nutrition
Feeding a properly formulated ration has been shown to reduce incidence of uterine diseases. The right diet provides the high-quality nutrients cows need for optimal performance in the fresh cow pen and meets growing energy and protein needs.

One proven nutritional tool is feeding bypass Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), which support improved uterine health and immune function, both which are vital for reproductive success

2. Monitor transition cows
One key indicator directly linked to post-fresh uterine health and incidence of metritis is dry matter intake (DMI) in the prefresh pen. While a slight decline in prepartum DMI is anticipated, a large drop in appetite can be problematic.

Research indicates the odds of severe metritis increase by 2.87 times for every 2.2-lb. decrease in dry matter intake during the close-up period. Therefore, watch DMI closely, and feed an energy-dense ration to anticipate normal declines in DMI as calving nears.

This is also the time to implement screening programs for transition cows to assess performance.

In addition to monitoring appetite, effective programs also assess attitude, body temperature, rumen fill and function, manure quality, udder fill and the presence or absence of uterine discharge. Address changes in health or behavior promptly to ward off even greater challenges.

3. Keep good records
Consistently monitor and record major fresh cow events such as metritis, milk fever, displaced abomasums, retained placentas, mastitis and lameness. This information can help you set a herd baseline so that you can compare future incidence and help determine when and where prevention and intervention are needed.

As you continue to improve uterine health on your dairy, make prevention your focus. Prevention over treatment is always the most cost-effective and successful solution to any dairy health challenge. PD

References are omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

Dr. Joel Pankowski is the manager of field technical services for Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition. Click here to contact him via email.