United States. Bureau of Animal Industry.

Special report on diseases of cattle and on cattle feeding online

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the digestive and urinary organs are very liable to affect the pregnant
womb and induce abortion.

The riding one another by cows is attended by such severe muscular
exertion, jars, jolts, mental excitement, and gravitation of the womb
and abdominal organs backward that it may easily cause abortion in a
predisposed animal.

Keeping in stalls that slope too much behind (over. 2 inches) acts in
the same way, the compression due to lying and the gravitation back-
ward proving more than a predisposed cow can safely bear.

Deep gutters behind the stalls, into which one or both hind limbs
slip unexpectedly, strain the loins and jar the body and womb most
injuriously. Slippery stalls in which the flooring boards are laid longi-
tudinally in place of transversely, and on which no cleats nor other
device is adopted to giye a firm foothold, are almost equally dangerous.
Driving on icy ground, or through a narrow doorway where the abdo-
men is liable to be jammed, are other common causes. Offensive odors
undoubtedly cause abortion. To understand this one must take into
account the preternaturally acute sense of smell possessed by cattle.
By this sense the bull instantly recognizes the pregnant cow and
refrains from disturbing her, while man, with all his boasted skill and

* Gerlach. Haselbacb. t Baumeister, Rueft", Rondaud, Trelut.


precise methods ftnds it difficult to come to a just conclusion. The
emanations from a cow in heat, however, will instantly draw the bull
from a long distance. Carrion in the pasture fields or about slaughter-
houses near by, the emanations from shallow graves, dead rats. or
chickens about the barns, and dead calves, the product of prior abor-
tions, are often chargeable with the maintenance of abortions. Abort-
ing cows often fail to expel the afterbirth, and if this remains hanging
in a putrid condition it is most injurious to pregnant cows in the near
vicinity. So with retained afterbirth in other cows after calving.
That some cows kept in filthy stables or near by slaughterhouses may
become inured to the odors and escape the evil results is no disproof of
the injurious effects so often seen in such cases.

The excitement, jarring, and jolting of a railroad journey will often
cause abortion , especially as the cow nears the period of calving, and
the terror or injury of railway or other accidents prove incomparably

All irritant poisons cause abortions by the disorder and inflammation
of the digestive organs, and if such agents act also on the kidneys or
womb the effect is materially enhanced. Powerful purgatives or diu-
retics should never be administered to the pregnant cow.

During pregnancy the contact of the expanding womb with the
paunch, just beneath it, and its further intimate connection through
nervous sympathy with the whole digestive system, leads to various
functional disorders and especially to a morbid craving for unnatural
objects of food. In the cow this is shown in the chewing of bones,
pieces of wood, iron bolts, articles of clothing, lumps of hardened paint,
etc. An unsatisfied craving of this kind, producing constant excite-
ment of the nervous system, will strongly conduce to abortion. How
much more so if the food is lacking in the mineral matter and especially
the phosphates necessary for the building up of the body of both dam
and offspring, to say nothing of that drained off in every milking.
This state of things is present in many old dairy farms, from which the
mineral matters of the surface soil have been sold off in the milk or
cheese for generations and no return has been made in food or manure
purchased. Here is the craving of an imperative need, and if it is not
supplied the health of the cow suffers and the life of the fetus may be

Among other causes of abortion must be named the death or the
various illnesses of the fetus, which are about as numerous as those of
the adult; the slipping of a young fetus through a loop in the navel
string so as to tie a knot which will tighten later and interrupt the
flow of blood with fatal effect; and the twisting of the navel string by
the turning of the fetus until little or no blood can flow through the
contorted cord. There is in addition a series of diseases of the mucous
membrane of the womb, and of the fetal membranes (inflammation,
effusion of blood, detachment of the membranes from the womb, fatty


or other degenerations, etc.), which interfere with the supply of blood
to the fetus or change its quality so that death is the natural result,
followed by abortion.


While any one of the above conditions may concur with the conta-
gious principle in precipitating an epizootic of abortion, yet it is only
by reason of the contagium that the disease can be indefinitely perpct
uated and transferred from herd to herd. When an aborting cow is
placed in a herd that has hitherto been healthy, and shortly afterwards
miscarriage becomes prevalent in that herd and continues year after
year, in spite of the fact that all the other conditions of life in that herd
remain the same as before, it is manifest that the result is due to con-
tagion. When a bull, living in a healthy herd, has been allowed to
serve an aborting cow, or a cow from an aborting herd, and when the
members of his own herd, subsequently served by him abort in consid-
erable numbers, contagion may be safely inferred. Mere living in the
same pasture or building does not convey the infection. Cows brought
into the aborting herd in advanced pregnancy carry their calves to the
full time. But cows served by the infected bull, or that have had the
infection conveyed by the tongue or tail of other animals, or by their
own, or that have had the external genitals brought in contact with
wall, fence, rubbing post, litter, or floor previously soiled by the infected
animals, will be liable to suffer. The Scottish abortion committee found
that when healthy, pregnant cows merely stood with or near aborting
cows they escaped, but when a piece of cotton wool lodged for twenty
minutes in the vagina of the aborting cow was afterwards inserted into
the vagina of a healthy, pregnant cow or sheep, the latter invariably
aborted within a month. So Roloff relates that in two large stables at
Erfurt, without any direct intercommunication, but filled with cows fed
and managed in precisely the same way, abortion prevailed for years in
the one, while not a single case occurred in the oth^er. Galtier finds
that the virus from the aborting cow causes abortions in the sow, ewe,
goat, rabbit, and guinea-pig ; and that if it has been intensified by
passing through either of the two last-named animals, it will affect
also the mare, bitch, and cat.

The precise germs or germ causing abortion have not yet been demon-
strated beyond question. Twenty years ago Franck, of Munich, drew
attention to a chain form of cells (Leptotlirix vaginalis) as the efficient
raiise. The Scottish Commission have isolated in gelatin cultures five
different bacteria obtained from the vaginal mucus of the aborting cow,
arnl Nocard, of Alfort, speaks of a germ existing abundantly between
the womb and fetal membranes of aborting cows which was never found
in the healthy.

Symptoms of abortion. In the first two or three months of pregnancy
no symptoms may have been observed, and unless the aborted product


is seen the fact of abortion may escape notice. Some soiling of the tail
with mucus, blood, and the waters may be observed, or the udder may
show extra firmness, and in the virgin heifer or dry cow the presence of
a few drops of milk may be suggestive, or the fetus and its membranes
may be found in the gutter or elsewhere as a mere clot of blood or as a
membraneous ball in which the forming body of the fetus is found. In
water the villi of the outer membrane (chorion, Plate xn) float out,
giving it a characteristically shaggy appearance.

In advanced pregnancy abortion is largely the counterpart of parturi-
tion, so that a special description is superfluous. The important thing
is to distinguish the early symptoms from those of other diseases, so
that the tendency may b.e arrested and the animal carried to full , time
if possible. A cow is dull, sluggish, separate from the herd, chewing
the cud languidly, or there may be frequent lying down and rising,
uneasy movements of the hind feet or of the tail, and slightly acceler-
ated pulse and breathing, and dry muzzle. The important thing is not
to confound it with digestive or urinary disorder, but in a pregnant cow
to examine at once for any increase of mucus in the vagina, or for blood
or liquid there or on the root of the tail; for any enlargement, firmness,
or tenderness of the udder, or in dry cows milk, and above all for any
slight straining suggestive of labor pains.

In many cases the membranes arc discharged with the fetus; in oth-
ers, in advanced pregnancy, they fail to come away, and remain hang-
ing from the vulva, putrefying and falling piecemeal finally resulting
in a fetid discharge from the womb. According to the size of the herd
contagious abortions will follow one another at intervals of one to four
or more weeks, in the order of their infection or of the recurrence of the
period of activity of the womb which corresponds to the occurrence of

Prevention. Weakness and bloodlessness are to be obviated by gen-
erous feeding, and especially in aliments (wheat bran, rape cake, cotton
seed, oats, barley, Jt>eans, pease, etc.^, rich in earthy salts, which will
also serve to correct the morbid appetite. This will also regenerate the
exhausted soil if the manure is returned to it. In the same way the
application of ground bones or phosphates will correct the evil, acting
in this case through the soil first and raising better food for the stock.
The ravages of worms arc to be obviated by avoiding infested pastures,
ponds, streams, shallow wells or those receiving any surface leakage
from land where stock go, and by feeding salt at will, as this agent is
destructive to most young worms.

The tendency to urinary calculi in winter is avoided by a succulent
diet (ensilage, steamed food, roots, pumpkins, apples, potatoes, slops),
and by the avoidance of the special causes named under (I ravel. (See
p. 153). Furnishing water inside the barn in winter in place of driv-
ing once a day to take their fill of ice-cold liquid will obviate a common
evil. Putrid and stagnant \vatcr arc to bo avoided. Sudden changes


of food are always reprehensible, but much more so in the pregnant
animal. Let the change be gradual. So with what is spoiled or

In case of prevalence of ergot in a pasture it should be kept eaten
down, or cut down with a mower, so that no portion runs to seed. (See
Plate v.) In case of a meadow the grass must be cut early before
the seeds have filled. The most dangerous time appears to be between
the formation of the milky seed and the full ripening. Yet the ergot
is larger in proportion to the ripeness, so that the loss of potency is
made up in quantity. The ripe seed and ergot may be removed by
threshing and the hay safely fed. It may also be noted that both
ergot and smut may be safely fed in moderate quantity, provided it is
used with succulent food (ensilage, roots, etc.) or with free access to
water, and salt is an excellent accessory as encouraging the animal to
drink. Both ergot and smut are most injurious in winter when the
water supply is frozen up or accessible only at long intervals. The
ergoted seed when threshed out can not be safely sown, but if first
boiled it may be fed in small amount or turned into manure. The
growth of both ergot and smut may be to a large extent prevented by
the time honored Scotch practice of sprinkling the seed with a satu-
rated solution of sulphate of copper before sowing.

Fields badly affected with ergot or smut may be practically renewed
by plowing up and cultivating, for a series of years under crops (turnips,
beets, potatoes, buckwheat, etc.), which do not harbor the fungus, and
which require much cultivation and exposure of the soil. Drainage
and the removal of all unnecessary barriers to the free action of sun-
shine and wind are important provisions.

Other precautions concerning separation from cows in heat, a proper
construction of stalls, the avoidance of carrion and other offensive
odors, protection from all kinds of mechanical injuries, including over-
driving and carrying by rail in advanced pregnancy, the exclusion of
all irritants, or strong purgatives and diuretics from food or medicine,
and the guarding against all causes of indigestion and bloating have
been sufficiently indicated under Causes. For protection of the womb
and fetus against the various causes of disease available methods are
not so evident. For cows that have aborted in the last pregnancy
chlorate of potash, 3 drams daily before the recurrence of the expected
abortion, is often useful. Prevention of contagious abortion will nat-
urally come with the treatment.

Treatment of non-contagious abortion. Although the first symptoms
of abortion have appeared it does not follow that it will go on to com-
pletion. So long as the fetus has not perished, if the waters have not
been discharged, nor the water-bags presented, attempts should be
made to check its progress. Every appreciable and removable cause
should be done a^ay with, the cow should be placed in a quiet stall


alone, and agents given to cheek the excitement of the labor pains.
Laudanum in doses of 1 ounce for a small cow or 2 ounces for a large
one should be promptly administered and repeated in three or four
hours, should the labor pains recur. This may be kept up for days or
even weeks if necessary, though that is rarely required, as the trouble
either subsides or abortion occurs. If the laudanum seems to lack per-
manency of action use bromide of potassium, or better, extract of vibur-
num pruuifolium (40 grains) at intervals of two or three hours until
five or six doses have been given.

Treatment of contagious abortion. So far as this differs from the treat-
ment of sporadic abortion, it consists in the free use of germicides or

(1) Scrape and wash the ba<jk part of the stall and gutter and water
it with a solution of 5 ounces sulphate of copper (bluestone) in 1 gallon
pure water. Kepeat this cleaning and watering at least once a week.
This should in all cases be applied to every stall where an aborting cow
has stood and to those adjacent. To treat the whole in the same way
would be even better, as it is impossible to say how many of the cows
harbor the germ. This is the more needful that in three or four years,
if the aborting cow is kept on, she becomes insusceptible and carries
her calf to full time. A cow may therefore be infecting to others though
she no longer aborts herself.

(2) Dissolve 1 dram corrosive sublimate, 1 ounce each of alcohol and
glycerine, and shake this up in a gallon of water, to use as an injection
into the vagina and a wash for the parts about the vulva and root of
the tail. Being very poisonous, it should be kept in a wooden barrel
out of the way of animals or children. Every morning the vulva, anus,
back of the hips, and root of the tail should be soonged with this liquid,
and this is best applied to the whole herd.

(3) When any case of abortion has occurred the fetal membranes must
be removed by the hand without delay, and together with the fetus
destroyed by burning, or boiling, or buried deeply, and the stall should
be cleansed and watered freely with the copper solution. Then the
womb should be washed out with 1 gallons of the corrosive sublimate
solution injected through a rubber tube introduced to the depth of the
womb and witli a funnel in its outer elevated end. This should be
repeated daily for a week. In the case of the other cows of the herd
one injection of the same kind should be made into the vagina, after
which they need only have their external parts and tail washed with
the solution daily.

AH a certain number of the cows will harbor the germ in the womb
when treatment is started, it is not to be expected that abortions will
cease at once, but by keeping up the treatment the trouble may be got
quit of in the following year. As an al>orting row is usually of little
use for the dairy, it is bct to separate and fatten her and apply treat-


nifut to those that remain. In this, as in other delicate manipulations,
the stockowner will consult his own interest by employing an accom-
plished veterinarian, and avoiding such as have not had the privileges
of a thorough professional education. In addition to the above the
removal of all manure and contaminated litter and the sprinkling of
the surface with the sulphate of the copper solution is called for. Drains
should no less be thoroughly rinsed and disinfected. Milking stools
and other implements may be treated in the same way, or with carbolic
acid or boiling water. Great care should be taken to guard against
bull or cows from an aborting herd or district; streams even may be
suspected if there is an aborting herd near by and higher up on that
stream. Cows sent to bull from an aborting herd are to be denied, and
workmen that have attended on such a herd should be made to wash
and disinfect their clothes and persons.


Iii the cow the premonitions of calving are the enlargement of the
udder, which becomes firm and resistant to the touch, with more or
less swelling in front, and yields a serous milky fluid ; the enlargement
and swelling of the vulva, which discharges an abundant stringy mucus 5
the drooping of the belly, and the falling in of the muscles at each
side of the root of the tail, so as to leave deep hollows. When this last
symptom is seen calving may be counted on in twenty-four hours or in
two or three days. When the act is imminent, the cow becomes uneasy,
moves restlessly, leaves oif eating, in the field leaves the herd, lies down
and rises again as if in pain, shifts upon her hind feet, moves the tail,
and may bellow or moan. When labor pains come on the back is
arched, the croup drooped, the belly is drawn up, and straining is more
or less violent and continuous. Meanwhile blood may have appeared
on the vulva and tail, and soon the clear water-bags protrude between
the lips of the vulva. They increase rapidly, hanging down toward
the hocks, and the fore or hind feet can be detected within them. With
the rupture of the bags and escape of the w T aters the womb contracts
on the solid angular body of the fetus, and is at once stimulated to
more violent contractions, so that the work proceeds with redoubled
energy to the complete expulsion. This is the reason why it is wrong
to rupture the water-bags if the presentation is normal, as they furnish
a soft uniform pressure for the preliminary dilatation of the mouth of
the womb and passages, in anticipation of the severe strain put upon
them as the solid body of the calf passes.

The cow often calves standing, in which case the navel-string is
broken as the calf falls to the ground. If, however, she is recumbent
this cord is torn through as she rises up. The after pains come on three
or four hours later and expel the membranes, and these should never
be left longer than twenty-four hours.



When there is but one calf the natural presentation is that of the
fore feet with the front of the hoofs and knees turned upward toward
the tail of the dam and the nose lying between the knees. (Plate xv.)
If there are twins the natural position of the second is that of the hind
feet, the heels and hocks turned upward toward the cow's tail. (Plate
xvin, Fig. 1.) In both of these natural positions the curvature of the
body of the calf the back arched upward is the same with the curva-
ture of the passages, which descend anteriorly into the womb, ascend
over the brim of the pelvis, and descend again toward the external
opening' (vulva). Any presentation different from the above is abnor-


With a well-formed cow and calf and a natural presentation as above,
calving is usually prompt and easy. Obstacles may, however, come from
failure of the mouth of the womb to dilate; from twisting of the neck of
the womb ; from tumors in the vagina ; from dropsy in the womb or ab-
domen; from overdistension of the rectum or bladder; from undue
narrowing of the passages; from excess of fat in the walls of the pel-
vis; from the disturbance of a nervous cow by noises; from stone or
urine in the bladder; from wrong presentation of the calf, its back be
ing turned downward or to one side in place of upward toward the
spine of the dam; from the bending backward into the body of the
womb of one or more limbs or of the head; from presentation of the
back, shoulder, or croup, all four limbs being turned back; from pre-
sentation of all four feet at once; from obstruction caused by an extra
head or extra limbs, or double body on the part of the offspring (Plate
xix); from dropsy or other disease of the calf; from excessive or im-
l>erfect development of the calf; from the impaction of twins at the
same time into the passages; or it may be at times from the mere
excessive volume of the fetus.


Do not interfere too soon. u Meddlesome midwifery is bad" with
animals as with women. After labor pains set in, give a reasonable
time for the water-bags to protrude and burst spontaneously, and only
interfere when delay suggests some mechanical obstruction. If there
is no mechanical obstruction let the calf be exiled slowly by the
unaided efforts of the cow. Ilrnises and lacerations of the passages
and flooding from the uneontracteo! womb may come from the too
speedy extraction of the calf. When assistance is necessary, the oper-
ator should dress in a thick flannel Hhirt from which the sleeves have
been cut oft' clear up to the shoulder*. This avoids danger of exjMisure,
and yet leaves the. whole arm free and nntrammeled. Hefor.e inserting
the hand, it ami the arm should be smeared witli oil. lard, <: vaseline,


care being taken that the oil or lard is fresh, neither salted nor rancid,
and that it has been purified by boiling or rendered antiseptic by the
addition of a teaspoonful of carbolic acid to the pound. This is a valu-
able precaution against infecting the cow by introducing putrid fer-
ments into the passages, and against poisoning of the arm by decom-
posing discharges in case the calving is unduly protracted. When
labor pains have lasted some time without any signs of the water bags,
the dropping in at the sides of the rump, and the other preparations for
calving being accomplished, the hand should be introduced to examine.
When the water-bags have burst and neither feet nor head appear for
some time, examination should be made. When one fore foot only and
the head appears, or both fore feet without the head, or the head with-
out the fore feet, examine. If one hind foot appears without the other,
make examination. The presenting limb or head should be secured by
a rope with a running noose, so that it may not pass back into the
womb and get lost during the subsequent manipulations, but may be
retained in the vagina or brought up again easily. In searching for a
missing member, it is usually better to turn the head of the cow down
hill, so that the gravitation of the fetus and abdominal organs forward
into the belly of the cow may give more room in which to bring up the
missing limb or head. If the cow is lying down turn her on the side
opposite to that on which the limb is missing, so that there may be
more room for bringing the latter up. Even if a missing limb is reached
it is vain to attempt to bring it up during a labor pain. Wait until the
pain has ceased, and attempt to straighten on the limb before the next
pain comes on. If the pains are violent and continuous they may be/
checked by pinching the back or by putting a tight surcingle round
the body in front of the udder. These failing, 1 ounce or 1 ounces of
chloral hydrate in a quart of water may be given to check the pains.
If the passages have dried up or lost their natural lubricating liquid,
smear the interior of the passages and womb, and the surface of the

Online LibraryUnited States. Bureau of Animal IndustrySpecial report on diseases of cattle and on cattle feeding → online text (page 22 of 56)