Ask the Vet

Cysts a Likely Cause of Repro Issues in Heifers

Follicular cystic ovary disease can happen when there is a disruption in the normal hormonal pattern of the estrus cycle. (Progressive Farmer photo by Becky Mills)


We have a heifer that is cycling all the time. What could cause this, and what do I need to do?


Any reproductive issue during breeding season needs to be dealt with immediately. Time is critical.

The most likely problem, in this case, is follicular cystic ovary disease. This occurs when there is a disruption of the normal hormonal pattern to the estrus cycle. These cattle develop one or more large cystic follicles on the ovary or ovaries. They display shortened heat cycles and excessive heat behavior due to low levels of luteinizing hormone and persistently high estrogen.

Have your veterinarian check her. A rectal examination can confirm whether these cystic structures are the problem.

Treatment for the condition involves giving a GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) product to jump-start the heat cycle. That would be followed by a prostaglandin injection about 10 days later. Treatment is not always successful, and retreatment may be called for.

Follicular cysts are more common in mature cows than heifers. There can be a genetic component, especially if it's a Holstein. But the exact cause or factors involved in this condition are poorly understood.