A prolapse is the slipping forward or down of a part or organ of the body.

Uterine and Vaginal are both relatively common prolapses to occur at calving time. Here is a breakdown on both and what they mean to a beef producer.

uterine prolapse

Uterine prolapse

What is it:

  • This is a veterinary emergency.  This is when a cow continues to push after the calf is born, and she pushes her uterus completely out.
  • The cow must be restrained and the veterinarian called immediately, as the trauma from the prolapse can lead to the cow bleeding to death.
  • A difficult pull, a lack of calcium or magnesium or protein, or giving birth on a slope can predispose the cow to a uterine prolapse.
  • Your veterinarian may be able to recommend medications and mineral protocols to help prevent this as well.


  • Get the cow up on her feet as soon after calving as possible and make sure she ‘mothers up’ to the calf.
  • If the cow is unable to rise, make sure that she is sitting up and that her hind end is not lower than her front end. Make her comfortable with dry bedding. If the nerves to the legs have been damaged and the cow is paralyzed, it may be several days or even weeks before she gets up. In this case, keep her clean behind and turn her frequently to prevent ‘bed sores’.

uterine prolapse cow
Image source

How to find it:

  • Do check the cow’s birth canal after the calf is delivered. Call your veterinarian immediately if there are tears or excessive bleeding.
  • Following a difficult birth, check for tears in the vagina or uterus. Tears in the vagina, unless extensive, are not too serious but uterine tears demand immediate veterinary attention. This is an emergency situation and should be treated as soon as possible.
  • Occasionally the uterus will be pushed out (uterine prolapse) either with the calf or soon after its birth. If this happens, waste no time in calling a veterinarian.

After Effects:

  • If the cow survives this, she can go on to have many more calves and rarely repeats the uterine prolapse. It is unlikely to reoccur. However, if they fail to rebreed and become pregnant it could indicate uterine damage or infection. If this is the case, you should consider culling them. Female offspring are not genetically predisposed to prolapses.

Vaginal prolapse

What is it: This is similar to a uterine prolapse, but with the cervix or vagina. Vaginal prolapses occur typically during the last two to three months before calving instead of afterward.

vaginal prolapse cattle

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  • Genetics; Unlike uterine prolapses, this is a heritable trait and likely to reoccur each year during late pregnancy.
  • Over conditioning your cow: While it may seem to make sense to over condition your cow ahead of calving. It makes your calf larger (especially if you ramp up feeding in late gestation) and your cow’s birth canal smaller due to the fat deposits in the pelvic area.


If you have an animal that has had a vaginal prolapse, it should not be kept in the herd. You would eventually lose a cow, calf or both.

Any surviving female offspring would be predisposed to this condition. Avoid keeping replacement heifers or breeding bulls from known lines that have experienced vaginal prolapses.

One thing you can do is not over condition your cows. Read our post on how to manage fat cows before calving for more.