Black cows grazing winter pasture

Should you cull a prolapsed cow?

Having a prolapsed cow is never a good thing, but it’s not an automatic reason to cull.

It’s something no cow-calf producer wants to see. But most likely, if you’ve calved cows and heifers for any length of time, you’ve had to deal with a prolapse.

Most prolapses occur very near the time of calving and two distinct kinds exist. Uterine prolapses are most likely to occur at or shortly after calving, whereas vaginal prolapses occur before calving occurs.

Uterine prolapse requires immediate attention and if treated soon, most animals have an uneventful recovery. If they subsequently rebreed and become pregnant, there is no reason to cull animals suffering uterine prolapse after calving.

That’s because a uterine prolapse is not likely to reoccur. Some, however, may suffer uterine damage or infection that prevents conception and should therefore be culled. If the uterus becomes badly traumatized before treating, the animal dies from shock or hemorrhage.

Vaginal prolapse, however, that which occurs before calving, is a heritable trait and is likely to reoccur each year during late pregnancy. Such animals should not be kept in the herd. The condition will eventually result in the loss of cow, calf, or both plus her female offspring would be predisposed to vaginal prolapse.  Call your local large animal veterinarian for proper treatment or advice about culling of any beef female that has been found to have a prolapse.

Research from the USDA station at Miles City, Mont., reported that 153 calvings out of 13,296 calvings from a 14-year span were associated with prolapse of the reproductive tract. Of those 153 prolapses, 124 (81%) were vaginal prolapses and 29 (19%) were uterine prolapses. The subsequent pregnancy rate following prolapse among first calf heifers was 28% and the pregnancy rate among adult cows following a prolapsed was only 57.9%. 

Before the spring calving season approaches, read more about Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers by downloading Oklahoma State University Extension Circular E-1006.

Glenn Selk is an Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist

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