By Tinotenda Mudhebha
The government, through the Livestock Recovery and Growth Plan, has the foot on the pedal in resuscitating the livestock sector. The goal of the programme is to maximize animal production and productivity. The continuous growth and transformation of the livestock sector offers substantial opportunities for agricultural development, poverty reduction, food security gains and improved nutrition. The sector can also empower women and youth, improve natural resource-use efficiency, and increase the resilience of households to cope with climate shocks.
The Livestock Recovery and Growth Plan seeks to attain a US$2 billion livestock economy by 2025 and contribute to food security and nutrition, employment creation, household incomes and, ultimately, growth of the rural economy as we journey towards Vision 2030.
However, the journey is not smooth; there are a number of constraints and complex interactions that need to be addressed. One notable complication in livestock production is Bovine uterine prolapse which occurs after parturition.
Bovine uterine prolapse is one of the complications of parturition in cattle which requires rapid and effective treatment to ensure the survival, recovery and continued fertility of the affected animal. The incidence may be up to 0.5-1.0 % of calvings. It usually occurs immediately after calving. However, it may also occur several days after parturition. It occurs when the bovine uterus protrudes after calving. It is common in dairy cattle, but can occur in beef cows. It is considered a medical emergency that puts the cow at risk of shock or death by blood loss.
Factors during calving that increase the risk of uterine prolapse include calving complications that cause injury or irritation of the external birth canal, severe straining during labor, and excessive pressure when a calf is manually extracted.
Non-calving factors include nutrition problems such as low blood calcium, magnesium, protein, or generally poor body conditions.
In a complete uterine prolapse, the uterine horns also come out. When this happens, the uterus hangs below the hocks of the animal. When this happens, the cow may lie on, step on or kick the exposed tissue, which increases the risk of rupturing the artery. The uterus can become easily infected as it bruises easily and can become covered with manure.
Causes of uterine prolapse
A uterine prolapse is usually seen immediately or within hours of calving. A difficult calving that causes injury or irritation of the external birth canal, severe straining, or excessive pressure applied when pulling a calf can cause a uterine prolapse.
Treatment involves replacing the prolapse following administration of an epidural. closing the external female organ with sutures or pins to help prevent a recurrence. A veterinarian will place these humanely and most importantly, without impeding urination. maintaining antibiotic cover to prevent infection.
When a cow suffers a uterine prolapse, there are two options for treating it: reduction or amputation. If the treatment is reduction, then the placenta will be removed, the endometrium thoroughly cleaned, any lacerations fixed, and the uterus replaced in the right position. If amputation is the course of action, the uterus is removed. In extreme cases, the cow may have hemorrhaged and suffered intense shock and therefore will be euthanized.
When choosing a treatment, considerations include:
Placenta. It is possible that the placenta has already separated from the uterus, but in other cases it has to be manually removed. It is extremely rare to not be able to separate the placenta from the uterus after a prolapse, but if it cannot be removed, it causes problems as it is impossible to adequately clean it if it has been on the ground and this dirt will interfere with the reduction. It would be possible to cut around each cotyledon and clean the rest as thoroughly as possible and replace.
Trauma. If the trauma is too severe, reduction is not recommended. The trauma or exposure to the environment could cause devitalization of the uterus and if it is too severe, it could cause further problems if placed back inside.
Gross hemorrhage. If there is a lot of hemorrhaging, then there is no reason to perform the reduction and therefore amputation is the preferred option. Gross hemorrhaging can occur in a scared animal that cannot be restrained. If violent struggling or running occurs with the prolapsed uterus, it can cause extreme distress, coma, and death.
During treatment of a prolapsed uterus, the animal must be positioned correctly to avoid increased bloat. A bloated rumen can make it much more difficult to perform a reduction
There is no way to completely prevent uterine prolapse. To reduce the risk, cows are returned to a standing position and encouraged to move around as soon as possible after calving. This is especially important in cases where a calf is pulled to assist the mother. When the cow stands, the uterus normally drops back into the abdominal cavity, which straightens out the uterine horns.
Tinotenda Mudhebha is an animal scientist
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