Abortion in cattle

Definition of abortion in cows

Abortion in the cow is defined as foetal death and expulsion between day 45 and day 265 of pregnancy.

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Incidence

Most cattle herds suffer an abortion rate of 1-2%. A single abortion, is thus no great cause for alarm.

  • An annual abortion rate up to 5% is considered to be normal. This figure excludes most abortions occurring during the second and third month of gestation as these often go undetected.
  • An abortion rate in excess of 10% is considered an abortion storm.

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Diagnosis

The diagnosis of the cause of abortion is difficult and in only 20-30% of cases is a diagnosis made.

Read more about Samples for diagnosis.

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Causes of abortion

  1. Non-infectious causes
    - genetic
    - environmental: temperature
    - nutritional: phytotoxins including mycotoxins
    - iatrogenic: administration of abortifacient drugs
  2. Infectious causes
    - general infections with high fever
    - specific infections such as brucellosis, BVD etc.

For detailed information see Table of infectious causes of abortion

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Prevention of abortions

  1. Proper hygienic and biosecurity measures in the cow's environment and feed storage
  2. Isolation of aborting cows and immediate removal of aborted materials
  3. Systematic evaluation of the feed for mycotoxins and other phytotoxins
  4. Adequate immunization against infectious diseases causing abortion
  5. Maintenance of adequate breeding and treatment records to avoid insemination of pregnant cows and administration of drugs that may cause abortion to pregnant cows.

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aborted foetus

Aborted foetus

laboratory worker

The diagnosis of the cause of abortion is difficult and in only 20-30% of cases is a diagnosis made.