Often referred to as “bearings,” prolapses occur in sheep, cattle and pigs at different times and for different reasons.
Commonly seen prior to lambing in older, fatter ewes carrying multiple lambs, some ewes develop a prolapse of the vagina and cervix.
During late pregnancy, hormones are released to soften the reproductive tract. At the same time, abdominal pressure increases due to a full rumen, growing foetuses and lots of internal body fat. These two factors combine to allow the vagina and cervix to be pushed externally. In doing so, the vagina will often kink the opening to the bladder, which continues to fill but cannot empty.
Bearing retainers may help to keep the prolapse in but you will have to closely monitor these animals as they may have trouble lambing on their own. Ewes that have thrown a bearing are likely to do it again on subsequent pregnancies so you may have to think seriously about breeding these animals again.
As a preventative measure, avoid ewes being overfat prior to lambing to minimize the pressure in the abdomen.
Unlike ewes, cows tend to prolapse after giving birth, and it is usually a complete prolapse of the uterus, not just the vagina and cervix. These cows are almost always low in calcium too, so will require treatment for milk fever as well as the prolapse.
In both species, it is important to replace the prolapse as soon as possible to avoid a ruptured bladder and damage to the soft vaginal or uterine lining. While some ewe prolapses will reduce easily, cow prolapses are difficult to replace properly and require veterinary intervention immediately.
If in doubt, call the vet as soon as you notice anything unusual around your animal’s back end, as it is important to treat these conditions as soon as possible