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Two protocols for the treatment of retained fetal membranes in dairy cattle were evaluated in a field trial. Cows that retained the fetal membranes for more than 12h were assigned to two treatment groups in an alternating order. In both groups rectal temperature was measured daily for 10 days after enrollment. In Group 1 (n=35) cows with a rectal temperature >or=39.5 degrees C received a systemic antibiotic treatment with 600mg ceftiofur intramuscularly on three consecutive days. No manual removal of the fetal membranes or intrauterine treatment was conducted. In case of elevated temperature of >or=39.5 degrees C on Day 3 treatment was conducted for another 2 days. In Group 2 (n=35) cows received a local antibiotic treatment (2500 mg ampicillin, 2500 mg cloxacillin) and an attempt was made to remove the fetal membranes manually. In case of a rectal temperature >or=39.5 degrees C 6000 mg of ampicillin were administered intramuscularly. Treatment was repeated on three consecutive days. If temperature did not decrease below 39.5 degrees C systemic treatment was extended for another 2 days. During 10 days of observation 33 and 34 cows showed fever, i.e. a body temperature >or=39.5 degrees C in Groups 1 and 2, respectively (94.3 versus 97.1%). The proportion of cows considered as cured (temperature <39.5 degrees C on Day 10 after enrollment) was 65.7 and 68.6% in Groups 1 and 2, respectively. All cows showed signs of chronic inflammation of the genital tract on Day 14 after calving. Within 4 weeks postpartum three (8.6%) and four (11.4%) cows were culled in Groups 1 and 2, respectively. Days to first service and days open did not differ significantly between the groups. Proportion of cows pregnant on Day 200 postpartum was 71.4 and 54.3% for Groups 1 and 2, respectively (P>0.05). Results indicate that treatment of retained fetal membranes without intrauterine manipulation and treatment can be as effective as conventional treatment including detachment and local antibiotic treatment.