Retained Placenta

Retained Placenta Problem in Cows

Retained Placenta Problem in Cows

Retained Placenta

Understanding Retained Placenta in Dairy Cows


Retained placenta, also known as retained fetal membranes, is a common complication that can occur in dairy cows after calving. It is defined as the failure to expel the fetal membranes, including the placenta and chorion, within 24 hours of giving birth. Normally, the expulsion of these membranes happens within 3 to 8 hours after calving.


There are several factors that can contribute to retained placenta in dairy cows. These include:

  • Dystocia (difficult calving): This can cause damage to the placenta and make it more difficult to expel.

  • Twin births: Cows that give birth to twins are more likely to experience retained placenta.

  • Older cows: The incidence of retained placenta increases with age.

  • Nutritional deficiencies: Deficiencies in selenium, vitamin A, copper, and iodine can increase the risk of retained placenta.

  • Uterine inflammation: This can interfere with the normal process of placental detachment.

Signs and Symptoms

The most obvious sign of retained placenta is the presence of the fetal membranes hanging from the vulva of the cow. The membranes may be red, swollen, and foul-smelling. Other signs of retained placenta include:

  • Vaginal discharge

  • Decreased appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Fever


In most cases, retained placenta will resolve on its own within a few days. However, if the membranes are retained for more than 48 hours, treatment is necessary to prevent complications such as uterine infection. Treatment options include:

  • Oxytocin: This is a hormone that can stimulate uterine contractions and help to expel the retained membranes.

  • Prostaglandins: These are drugs that can also stimulate uterine contractions.

  • Manual removal: In some cases, it may be necessary to manually remove the retained membranes. This should only be done by a veterinarian.


There are several things that can be done to prevent retained placenta in dairy cows, including:

  • Providing a balanced diet: This should include adequate amounts of selenium, vitamin A, copper, and iodine.

  • Ensuring proper calving management: This includes assisting with difficult calvings and preventing dystocia.

  • Monitoring cows for signs of retained placenta: This should be done for at least 24 hours after calving.


Retained placenta is a common complication that can occur in dairy cows after calving. However, it is usually preventable and treatable. By taking steps to prevent retained placenta and monitoring cows closely after calving, you can help to keep your herd healthy and productive.

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