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The Moo News

Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care                                                    October 2002

  Hi Folks,  

            The nice weather we’ve been having is helping the cows show heats again. After the really hot spell, the open cows seem to be cycling again. The only problem is that breeding cows when it’s easier in October and November will have them calve in during July and August—right during the usual hot spell stretch. But if cows are long open, they do need to get bred back—just try not to have a large percentage of your herd all bred in the next two months.

            During herd checks now, many cows have very “good tone” (structure) of the uterus due to the more comfortable conditions. But as cows’ reproductive systems “kick in” again, they may experience cystic ovaries. Cysts can really be bothersome and generally occur when the cows rebound after a stress—this can be when skinny cows begin putting on good condition again, or after a hot spell. Cysts are traditionally treated by an injection of Cystorelin (gonadorelin). However, they often can be gently ruptured (“popped”). Some people would argue that rupturing a cyst can cause scarring of the ovary and hinder future fertility. I have not seen that to be the case—cows will breed back, calve in and breed yet again. Hemorrhage of the ovary is a more likely prospect with manual removal of a cyst, but applying some pressure for a few moments after rupturing the cyst minimizes that possibility.

As far as natural treatments go, I’ve definitely seen homeopathic Apis mellifica followed by Natrum mur work consistently well for right-sided cysts, and homeopathic Lachesis followed by Natrum mur works well on left-sided cysts. When cysts are on both ovaries, I’ll use Apis. The dose is 10 pellets of Apis or Lachesis twice daily for 5 days, then 10 pellets of Natrum mur twice daily for 3 days. Breed whenever you detect a heat, no matter how minor. Also effective for cysts (for those who don’t use homeopathy) is Spectra 305, which is a combination plant-based remedy, available from Integrative Therapeutics, 1-800-931-1709. It involves giving 10 tablets (within a 1-oz. gel capsule) every other day for 12 doses. Another option that works is acupuncture performed between the cow’s short ribs on the side with the cyst. Breed whenever a heat is detectable to any degree.

Cows that have normal ovaries with a corpus luteum (“CL”) can respond to the prostaglandin Lutalyse (dinoprost) in about 80 hours after the injection. Spectra 305 has shown great results of helping cows show heat at this point of the cycle and this is its main use for my farmers. For a normally cycling cow which simply hasn’t shown heats for a long time (even if previously given Lutalyse or the OvSynch sequence), Spectra 305 often gets a cow to show a heat even before completing the prescribed 6 doses (1 bottle).

In any event, whether using injections or natural treatments to get cows to show heats, this does not guarantee they will settle. That is up to your timing for A.I. or your bull’s best judgment. If breeding with a bull, do try to have him run with the herd if all the safety issues of a free-running bull can be met. Having a bull run with the herd decreases your time and energy spent trying to watch cows come into heat. The bull automatically does that. If you put the cows to a bull in the bullpen, you still need to watch for heats and you might as well use A.I. to get better genetic variety. A bull can pass an infection throughout the herd (whether in the bullpen or running with the herd). There’s nothing worse for reproduction than an infected bull or a non-fertile one if a bull is all you use. Also, you will need 2-3 bulls if you are trying to breed your whole herd in a small period of time.   

Bulls, like cows, are also affected by a hot spell. Studies have shown that bulls experiencing a body temperature of 105 degrees for a few days in a row will have damaged sperm. It takes a bull about 45 days to regenerate fertile sperm. So a hot spell can really knock bull-bred herds (as well as A.I. herds).

Irregular heat cycles can indicate that a herd is experiencing an infection. Irregular heats or abortions in the first 3-4 months of pregnancy can mean BVD is in the herd. Abortions at 3-5 months of pregnancy could be due to BVD or Lepto, and abortions at 6-8 months of pregnancy usually point to Neospora caninum.

BVD is an especially troublesome character. I say this because herds which have been well-vaccinated can still be reproductively ravaged—if there is a Persistently Infected (”PI”) BVD animal on the farm. A PI animal is one that is constantly shedding BVD virus to its herdmates. This is the most common form of BVD these days (as compared to the “classic” BVD outbreak with many adult cows dying). A PI animal becomes infected when it is still in the womb, due to the pregnant cow coming into contact with BVD. The forming calf, especially if exposed to BVD between day 50-120 of pregnancy, is developing its immune system and recognizes the BVD as “part of itself” instead of being something to react against. In effect, the BVD sneaks into the developing calf’s system. The calf either (1) dies and is aborted, (2) is born weak and dies soon thereafter, (3) is a runt and is sold sometime before maturity, or (4) actually makes it into the milking string. All the while, every sneeze, cough, urination and manure pie of this animal contains active BVD virus particles—against which a vaccine is powerless. So in herds, vaccinated or not, that experience odd reproductive problems in the first few months of gestation, BVD should be considered and investigated.


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