Electronic Journal of Polish Agricultural Universities (EJPAU) founded by all Polish Agriculture Universities presents original papers and review articles relevant to all aspects of agricultural sciences. It is target for persons working both in science and industry,regulatory agencies or teaching in agricultural sector. Covered by IFIS Publishing (Food Science and Technology Abstracts), ELSEVIER Science - Food Science and Technology Program, CAS USA (Chemical Abstracts), CABI Publishing UK and ALPSP (Association of Learned and Professional Society Publisher - full membership). Presented in the Master List of Thomson ISI.
Volume 9
Issue 4
Veterinary Medicine
Available Online: http://www.ejpau.media.pl/volume9/issue4/art-33.html


Ryszard Mordak
Department of Internal Medicine, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland



There are a wide range of procedures used in the treatment of retained placenta in cows. Manual removal of the placenta, while administering antibiotics, is still commonly used in local practices. When veterinarians decide to manually remove the fetal membranes, the most important task is to remove it gently in its entirety or, at least, as much as is feasible. Some cases of fetal membrane retention in cows may prove complicated even during the actual process of removal for a number of reasons. There may be a tearing of the membranes, and considerable portions, particularly those lying deeply within the uterus may literally be out of reach of the operating veterinary surgeon. For these cases of fetal membrane retention in cows a new instrument was devised. The aim of this study is to assess the practical use of the prototype instrument. The practical aspects, and values of selected parameters of reproduction were analyzed in 16 cows which were being treated for fetal retention and the results then compared with the mean results of the control group; cows in the same herd undergoing normal delivery. The instrument was shown to be useful in these cases. It allows for the detection and removal of the rest of these membranes from the deeper parts of the uterus. The value of mean parameters of fertility in tested cows was acceptable.

Key words: cows, placenta, retention, treatment.


Retention of the placenta in cows is a problem that occurs frequently on many dairy farms. These cases have disadvantageous influence on the post-calving period and on the development of lactation [2]. In veterinary practice one can observe a wide range of methods of dealing with placenta retention in cows [1,3,5,12]. Often in a cases of manual removal of the placenta potential infection of the uterus is prevented by use of antibiotics [11,14]. In Great Britain 92.5 % of cattle veterinarians use the manual technique at least occasionally [4]. Likewise this method is frequently observed in other countries [6,7]. During the manual removal of the placenta, veterinary surgeons sometimes encounter great difficulty when attempting to remove the placenta in its entirety [1]. Due to various mechanical factors the fetal membranes may be torn resulting in a high risk of portions of these membranes remaining in the uterus. Those pieces, which are often not firmly attached but particularly those lying deeper in the uterine cavity, may be out of reach of the operating veterinary surgeon. These instances of placenta retention, when considering manual intervention, are complicated. It was precisely for these complicated cases, which occur during the manual removal of the placenta in cows that a prototype instrument was devised. The brand new veterinary instrument is under patent [10] (Photograph 1). The aim of this study was the verification of the practical use of this prototype instrument during the complicated manual removal of the placenta in dairy cows.

Photograph 1. A view of instrument


The testing was carried out on sixteen 4-7 years old Holstein cows. In each case the prototype was used as an aid in the manual removal of the placenta since complications were encountered due to membrane remaining deeply in the uterus. (Photograph 2). Fetal membranes were defined as retained if not expelled within 24 hours post-calving. The interventions were 30 – 50 hours post-calving. The instrument itself is made of special plastic material; being easy to wash, disinfect and sterilize. In each case after intervention the uterus was protected against infection with the use of intrauterine antibiotic suppositories based on; oxytetracycline and neomycine. All of the cows treated in this way became pregnant following the intervention. The results of the group of cows undergoing testing were analized using selected parameters of reproduction, such as; first service conception rate, average number of services per conception and the average number of days open – interval calving-conception (group I). These results were compared with the mean results of the control group using the same reproductive parameters for 64 other (randomly selected) pregnant cows, of the same herd and during the same period of time calving normally without retention of the fetal membranes (group II). The results and reproductive indices were statistically analyzed for both groups of cows. All cows were in similar favourable farm conditions both environmentally and nutritionally. The mean milk productivity in the tested herd was about 8000 kilograms per cow in the lactation period.

Photograph 2. The instrument during manual removal of retained placenta in cow


The final results are presented in table 1. The results were similar in both groups of cows without demonstrating statistically significant differences. The first service conception rate indicator in the experimental group of cows was 43.75% and in the control group from the same herd it was 45.65%. The average number of services per conception respectively 2.12 (group I) and 2.29 (group II) while the average number of days open 116 days and 119 days respectively.

Table 1. Values of selected average parameters of reproduction in cows after the use of the new instrument by manual removal of retained placenta (test – group I) and for other cows of the same herd without retention of placenta (herd – group II)

Group of cows

Number of cows

First service conception rate

Average number of services per conception

Average number of days open

Average milk production





116 days

7600 liters





119 days

7900 liters

In accordance with various authors, the retention of the placenta can occur from just a few per cent to over 20% of calving cows and is dependent on many factors and conditions [5,8,9]. These may be both external or internal factors such as nutrition, environment, management, stress and others. A variety of different methods of treatment for retained placenta in cows are used with manual removal of the retained fetal membranes and intrauterine antibiotic treatment being one of them. But by far the best are those which enhance the health and fertility of the animal [4]. According to the author total removal can only be achieved if there is complete and proper placental separation. There is always, however, a high risk of portions of the placenta remaining in the uterus. Those parts of fetal membranes, particularly after manual removal, if they are firmly attached have a negative influence on the health of cows and is worse than non removal [1]. Leaving the rest of the placenta often leads to an increase in the growth of bacteria and progress of local inflammation, infection and sometimes even toxaemia in cows as well as other disturbances to reproduction at a later stage, which may ultimately lead to infertility in these particular cows and their elimination from the herd. This is costly for the breeder and brings a loss. But many cases of retention placenta (about 70 %) are rather simple procedures and practicing veterinary surgeons are able, during manual intervention, to remove the placenta entirely without great difficulty during the first approach [15]. Probably for this reason it remains a widely used method despite academics being against its usage. The use of manual removal of the placenta allows the vet to exam and to evaluate the individual cases with their variety, complexity and prognosis which may be important with regards to diagnosis concerning the method of procedure and in simple cases the immediate, safe removal of the actual problem itself. [13]. When the surgeon decides on the manual method for the removal of the placenta he should do so hygienically and gently and as far as is possible, in its entirety while ensuring adequate antibiotic cover. The practical value of the prototype instrument in removing the remains of the placenta in cows was confirmed in many of the cases aforementioned. The results concerning the health and fertility in cows in which the instrument was trialed are acceptable. The instrument was shown to be un-traumatic during normal, gently and competent procedures. In addition to aiding in the removal of the remains of the placenta it also allows for the detection of old hard clots of blood at the base of the uterine caused probably after hemorrhaging during calving. The instrument permits these to be brought to the neck of the uterus where they can then safely be removed by hand. This instrument provides the veterinarian with an alternative method of removing the rest of the membranes during the first approach - visit. It is obvious that the veterinarian, who does not possess the instrument can attempt to remove the rest of the membrane during further visits, but this requires more time and more procedures which itself causes more stress for the animals and is more costly.


  1. The new instrument was shown to be useful for veterinarians in cases of complicated fetal membrane retention resolved manually in tested cows.

  2. By using the instrument in complicated cases of fetal membrane retention it was possible to remove the remnants of these membranes lying deeper in the uterine cavity.

  3. The results obtained for the reproductive parameters in cows where the instrument was used were similar to those of cows in the same herd which gave birth normally and did not suffer placental retention.


    1. Bolinder A., Seguin B., Kindahl H., Bouley D., Otterby D., 1988. Retained fetal membranes in cows: manual removal versus nonremoval and its effect on reproductive performance. Theriogenology.

    2. Drillich M., Reichert U., Mahlstedt M., Heuwieser W., 2005 Metaphylactic Systemic Antibiotic Treatment of Cows with Retained Placenta. Monograph contains the lectures and the papers presented in VI Middle- European buiatrics Congress. Achievements and Prospects of Ruminants Medicine. Poland, Cracow – Pulawy 2005, June 1-4 pp 315-319.

    3. Drillich M., Pfützner A., Sabin H.J., Heuwieser W., 2003. Comparison of two protocols for the treatment of retained fetal membranes in dairy cattle. Theriogenology. 59, 951-960.

    4. Laven R.A., 1995. The treatment of retained placenta. Cattle Practice. 3, 267-278.

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    6. Kaczmarowski M., Malinowski E., 2004. Efficacy of selected methods in retained placenta treatment in cows. Życie Weterynaryjne. 79, 93-97.

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    10. Mordak R., 2004. Patented Bulletin of Poland. Instrument for removal of retained fetal membranes especially in cows. 793, p 6.

    11. Peters A.R., Laven R.A., 1996. Treatment of bovine retained placenta and its effects. Veterinary Record. 139, 535-539.

    12. Shabankareh H.K., 2002. Comparison of the effects of two approaches to retained placenta on uterine bacteriology, cytology and fertility of dairy cows. XXII World Buiatrics Congress.Germany, Hannover, August 18–23, 2002, abstract 310-622.

    13. Schlefer D.H., 2002. Bovine Placental Development, Anatomy and Pathology: Before and After Birth. Cattle Practice. 10, 169-174.

    14. Van Den Bogaard A.E. J. M., Hazen M. J., Kriele C.P.M.A., 1992. Rationale for treatment of retained placenta in cows with neomycin and metronidazole. Veterinary Record 130,349-350.

    15. Wawron W., Krzyżanowski J., Sławomirski J., Głuszak J., Zarzeczny J., 1983. Analysis of Cases of Fetal Membranes Retention in Cows Treated in Maternity Clinic of Veterinary Medicine Faculty in Lublin during the years 1965–1981 (translation). Medycyna Weterynaryjna. 3, 136-137.


    Accepted for print: 30.11.2006

    Ryszard Mordak
    Department of Internal Medicine,
    Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland
    pl. Grunwaldzki 47, 50-366 Wrocław, Poland
    email: rymo@poczta.wp.pl

    Responses to this article, comments are invited and should be submitted within three months of the publication of the article. If accepted for publication, they will be published in the chapter headed 'Discussions' and hyperlinked to the article.