Sam Leadley, PhD, Attica Veterinary Associates, P.C., Attica, N.Y., offers reminders you can give your clients about the importance of dipping the navels of newborn calves.

The frequency of navel infections in baby calves has been connected to:
1. Cleanliness of calving environment
2. Cleanliness of calf pen or hutch
3. Adequacy of colostrum management
4. Navel dipping

National dairy studies in 1992, 1996, 2002 and 2007 have consistently shown that about 2% of pre-weaned calf deaths are due to navel infections. “When farms that dip navels are compared to those that do not dip navels we can document a big decrease in mortality,” Leadley says (see graph). On farms that do not dip navels estimates of frequency of infections vary from 20% to 28%. For farms that dip navels reported frequency of infections vary from less than 5% to as high as 14%.

Make navel dipping a priority

Consistent use of navel dip for newborn heifer calves using a recommended protocol results in fewer deaths and infections than not dipping navels. Calves with navel infections grow more slowly than those without infections.

Where 7% tincture of iodine navel dip is not available, a chlorhexidine (Nolvasan) solution or tincture is an acceptable alternative.

Read about it in Leadley’s December 2011 Calving Ease newsletter. Visit and click on the Calf Facts section.