National dairy studies in 1992, 1996, 2002 and 2007 consistently show a mortality rate due to navel infections of about 2 percent in pre-weaned calves. Sam Leadley, a New York-based calf management specialist, says farms that do not dip navels have reported infection rates of 20 percent to 28 percent, while farms that routinely dip navels reported infection rates of 5 percent to 14 percent.

Calves that experience navel infections also have been shown to grow more slowly than those without infections.

A 7-percent iodine solution in an alcohol tincture is preferred for navel dipping. If it is not possible to access 7-percent iodine due to drug-control regulations, Leadley suggests using a chlorhexidine solution or tincture.