New York-based calf management specialist Sam Leadley says the frequency of navel infections has been connected to:

  • Cleanliness of calving environment.
  • Cleanliness of calf pen or hutch.
  • Adequacy of colostrum management.
  • Navel dipping.

National dairy studies in 1992, 1996, 2002 and 2007 consistently show a mortality rate due to navel infections of about 2 percent of preweaned calves. Leadley says farms that do not dip navels have report infection rates of 20 to 28 percent, while farms that routinely perform the practice reported infection rates of 5 to 14 percent. 

Calves that experience navel infections grow more slowly than those without infections. Leadley cites a study in which calves with navel infections were weighed once a month for three months. They averaged about 20 pounds less gain than their healthy herdmates. The researchers who performed the study suggested that because navel infections tend to be chronic, calves are very slow to recover and thus their performance is altered.

Leadley advises using a 7 percent iodine solution in an alcohol tincture as the preferred navel-dipping solution. If it is not possible to access 7 percent iodine due to new drug-control regulations, he suggests a good alternative is a chlorhexidine (Nolvasan) solution or tincture.    

Read more of Leadley’s advice on navel dipping.


Source:  Calving Ease by Sam Leadley, PhD, Attica Veterinary Associates, December 2011