Field necropsy of cattle

Wisdom from the trenches


  • Elizabeth R. Homerosky Veterinary Agri-Health Services Ltd., 201-151 East Lake Blvd. NE, Airdrie, Alberta, T4A 2G1
  • Brian N. Warr Feedlot Health Management Services Ltd., PO Box 140 Okotoks, Alberta TlS 2A2 Canada



cattle, necropsy, diagnostics


Field necropsies provide important information regarding both individual animal and herd health. Adequate preparation, including following an agreed-upon plan with the producer, obtaining proper equipment, and collecting a thorough history, contributes significantly to successfully determining a diagnosis in a timely manner. Standard equipment includes proper outerwear, a necropsy knife, honing steel, and an axe or reciprocating saw. Cattle should be placed left side down and prosected in a manner that allows the veterinarian to examine relevant organs in a consistent order. By developing a standard necropsy routine, the veterinarian is less likely to overlook organs with significant gross lesions. In the absence of distinctive gross lesions, submission of photographs or tissue samples to an experienced veterinarian or diagnostic laboratory may help with determination of the diagnosis or etiology.






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