Once a cow prolapses, she may not be a profitable animal in the future

Calving season, often an exciting time, has the potential of being overshadowed by the burdens of prolapse in cattle.

Dr. Doug Parker, a veterinarian at Sugar Creek Animal Hospital in Bentonville, Ark., has treated prolapse in the past. He also raises beef cattle alongside his family in northwest Arkansas.

Parker said that prolapses occur occasionally in beef cattle and usually occur before calving. There are two distinct kinds of prolapses – vaginal and uterine

Vaginal prolapses typically occur before calving and are considered to be less severe, Parker said. The prolapse, which can be seen as a pink mass protruding below the tail, is usually only visible when the cow is lying down. Parker said that vaginal prolapses can be comparable to the size of a grapefruit and are caused by excess pressure being applied to the abdominal cavity prior to calving.

Parker said mild vaginal prolapses can also occur, but usually go back in when the cow stands up. If the cow consistently experiences mild prolapses, the condition may worsen and lead to tissue damage or infection.

“You see (prolapses) pretty often,” Parker said. “The most common time to see them is when cows get into later stages of pregnancy.”

Unlike vaginal prolapses, uterine prolapses are quite large. The mass will also be darker and bloodier due to differences in tissue types.

Uterine prolapses occur at or shortly after calving, Parker said. This kind of prolapse happens when the uterus fully comes out of the birth canal either with the calf or with the afterbirth.

Parker informs most of his customers that cows suffering from uterine prolapse may not conceive as easily the following year and may have slower recovery times.

Jennifer Cook, co-owner of 5C Herefords in Greenbrier, Ark., dealt with a cow that prolapsed four years ago.

The Cooks decided to retain an otherwise high-quality heifer that prolapsed during her first calf’s birth. She prolapsed again with her second calf and did not survive (though the calf did).

“We thought that (the heifer) was probably going to be OK, so we waited an extra breeding season before we went ahead and AI’d her again, thinking that this probably wasn’t genetic. It was a result of the breach birth, and likely won’t happen again.” Cook said. “Anybody else would have put her on the next cull truck out of town.”

Cook said the most difficult part of this process was having to watch her youngest son, Adam, cope with the loss of the show heifer he had raised.

The breeding process is more challenging following a prolapse because the, “vaginal tissue gets infected, inflamed, and swollen,” Parker said.

The first step in caring for cattle that endure any form of prolapse is to consult with a veterinarian, Parker said.

The next step is to clean the prolapse with disinfectants and push it back in.

Parker said some cows may prolapse regularly. To care for this chronic condition, restrain the cow, clean the mass, push it back in and stitch the vulva closed. Purse string is often used as the suture material.

If a cow has prolapsed, there is a high chance that she will do it again, Parker said. This can be linked to genetic problems that can cause the cow to have structural weakness within the reproductive tract.

Many cattle producers are faced with the decision to either keep or cull a cow that has prolapsed. If the producer decides to keep the animal, a variety of risks are born. This decision has the potential to be emotionally biased, but Parker said he will tell you to look at the facts, then make the tough decisions.

Once cows prolapse, “they won’t have good anatomy,” Parker said. “They won’t be reproductively profitable.”

Parker advises producers to cull cows that suffer from vaginal prolapse and avoid using them and their offspring in breeding programs.

“I think it’s always a good idea to seek a professional’s advice before you make a bigger problem.” Cook said. “In this case, we did manage to get a second calf out of the momma, but it wasn’t without cost, and the end result was the same.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here