On farms where calving begins in mid-January, there will now be calves between nine and 10-weeks-of-age, and it may be time to start preparing for weaning.

As the breeding season approaches on farms, it is vital that farmers begin preparations and ensure that all cows are cycling ahead of mating starting.

Cows that are not cycling at the start of breeding will be at least three weeks into breeding before they can be bred.

Retained placenta

A retained placenta is when a cow or heifer fails to expel their afterbirth within 24 hours post-parturition or after calving.

In some cows, it can take a number of days for the cow to expel their afterbirth, which could be cased by:

  • Cow having twins;
  • Premature birth/abortions/still births;
  • Difficult calving.

It could also indicate issues such as:

  • Subclinical milk fever;
  • Overfat cows;
  • Selenium/vitamin E deficiency;
  • Low immune system.

The impact of a retained placenta is that it leads to an increased risk of metritis, ketosis and mastitis.


A retained placenta can also lead to an infection within the uterus, which will have an impact on the cow’s ability to go back in calf.

Any cows that has had a retained placenta or a metabolic issues should be checked prior to breeding beginning.

A lingering infection that is not detected before breeding begin will have an impact on the cows’ fertility performance, and could result in them being culled from the herd.

For cows that have a retained placenta, treatment is often not required, as the cow will expel the afterbirth. If they continue to hold onto their cleaning after four days, you should consult with your vet.

Manual removal is not advised, but your vet may recommend trimming of the membrane to avoid bacteria entering the uterus.

Manual removal can lead to an infection within the cow’s uterus and can delay the onset of heat by up to 20 days.

If the cow or heifer goes off her feed, has a high temperature or has a reduced milk yield, then veterinary assistance should be sought straight away.


Pre-breeding heat detection for at least three weeks prior to breeding is also advised, as this helps to pick up non-cycling cows.

Although all the ‘problem cows’ may have been checked, there is also likely to be a few cows with issues that did not have a problem at calving or a metabolic issue.