Reproductive tract infection and inflammation in dairy cows


  • Stephen LeBlanc Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Canada N1G 2W1



dairy cattle, reproduction, retained placenta, metritis, nutrition


Approximately 30 to 50% of cows are affected by at least one form of reproductive tract disease in the postpartum period. Most cows experience a period of insulin resistance, fat mobilization, inflammation, and reduced effectiveness of immune function in early lactation. The mechanisms which influence the severity of these challenges and consequently the risk of retained placenta, metritis, and endometritis are increasingly understood, but it is not clear how to prevent these diseases through management. Numerous links exist between fat metabolism, inflammation, immune function, and probably feed intake regulation. An excessive pro-inflammatory state early in the postpartum period appears to be a key feature of cows with endometritis about one month later. Aspects of innate immune function are commonly impaired in the transition period, particularly in association with elevated non-esterified fatty acid concentrations · and to a lesser degree by ketosis. Changes in metabolism and immune function precede reproductive tract disease by several weeks. Implementation of nutritional and management best practices are likely to favor metabolic and reproductive health. The effect of purulent vaginal discharge at four to five weeks postpartum on pregnancy rate is mitigated by intrauterine treatment with cephapirin, whereas the effect of treatment with injection(s) of prostaglandin is equivocal. Practical cow-side diagnostic tools for endometritis are needed and effective treatment of endometritis remains unclear.






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