Uterine Torsion in Cattle

What is uterine torsion?

Normal vs Twisted Uterus in Cattle (Uterine Torsion)Uterine torsion when the uterus twists on its long axis. The twist is usually anticlockwise and normally involves the whole of the womb up to and including the cervix and the front section of the vagina.

It occurs during the first or second stage of labour, so a cow with a twisted uterus will be at or very near its expected date of calving.

Clinical Signs

  • Normal cow until the start of labour
  • Womb contractions begin but then often continue for a prolonged period.
  • Womb contractions may then stop. This can also happen after a relatively short period. Calving will then progress no further. Thus the fact that the cow has started calving may be missed unless close-up cows are watched carefully
  • Opening of the cervix may also begin then stop
  • If the condition is not treated the placenta will separate and the calf die

Diagnosis

On the clinical signs described above, the diagnosis is usually obvious when a hand is put in the vagina as the spiral twists in the walls of the vagina guide the hand into twisting. However in some cases the twist can only be picked up by feeling the uterus through the rectum.

Treatment

  • Get the vet in as soon as possible
  • The vet will try to roll the calf or roll the cow around the calf . If this is not possible a caesarean will be needed to correct the twist
  • In some cases the cervix will open once the twist has been corrected. In such cases the calf should be calved via the normal route. If the cervix doesn’t open after the twist has been corrected, it is likely that a caesarean will be needed.

Prevention

Reducing the number of calving cows is the only reliable way of reducing the number of uterine torsions. Uterine torsion is not caused by mineral deficiencies or overfeeding or other such easily alterable managemental factors.

In most cases the cause of torsion appears to be instability of the uterus combined with excessive movement of the calf in the womb. The two factors together result in the uterus twisting around its ligaments.

The cause of the increase reported by NADIS vets is not known but it may be associated with the larger taller modern cow, particularly the Holstein. More space in the abdomen combined with heavier calves may be increasing the risk of torsion.