Navel Issues Unraveled

Navel infections are tricky. They can go undetected for long periods of time and wreak havoc on your calf raising goals and plans. Like Greta Halahan of Singing Brook Dairy said, “navel infections are creepers, they sneak up when you least expect them to and cause trouble.” We agree! We had it happen to us just over a year ago!

The most challenging thing about navels is there is a lot of management involved, so it can be difficult to put a plan together that works for both your employees and your calves. 

One thing I have noticed when talking to clients is that they have a great navel dipping program, but no follow up. Follow up is the most effective way to do two things. One, it will ensure that your navel dipping program is working, and two, it will be a check to make sure that your navel program is being followed. 

Here is what we did to cut our navel infections from 20% down to less than 1%, decreased joint infection from 100% of calves that had navel infections had joint infections, down to less than 1%, how we saved 50% on navel dipping costs, and how we saved 99% of treatment costs. 

We were die-hard 7% tincture iodine people. It was the GOLD standard, and we were determined to do everything by the gold standards that we could. It was expensive, but it was worth it if it worked like it should. For a long time, 7% Iodine did the trick. The calves were dipped at birth, and when we brought them here, they would get dipped again. We had very few navel infections and very few joint infections. Then, all of a sudden they started to creep up on us. First it was a few navel infections, then it was a few swollen knees, then it was a few completely blown out joints. Of course, we immediately took the blame for what was happening, “it’s the metal flooring, it finally started to cause problems.” At one point, I was in the pens on my hands and knees crawling around to see if there were scurs or sharp points that were catching their knees and causing all of these new issues we were having. After coming up with nothing we were stumped.

Fast forward a few months and a failed blown out knee repairs and we were tired. What could be causing this to just start happening? 

After attending a few seminars and calf conferences, and learning everything we now know about joints and navels, it all started to make sense. 

We started to check EVERY SINGLE NAVEL and document EVERYTHING. We would check navels on arrival and make note of any calves that didn’t have a perfectly dipped and fully covered navel. 

We would check navels at 1 day, 5 days, 10 days, and make notes on each calf’s navel score in our medicine book. Low and behold, we found the source of our problem. All calves had iodine on them on arrival, but where on their body it was, wasn’t always the navel. Over 50% of them actually.

At our check days, we were finding a majority of the calves had a navel score of 2 & 3. We were proactively treating the score 3 navels, but if we went and treated every calf that had a score over one, we would be treating almost every calf. 

Well, come to find out down the road, those score 2 navels, many times, turned into joint infections, which were almost impossible to fix if not caught early enough.

We reached out to explain the problems that we were having, and why we thought they were happening. Things improved, but we still weren’t where we wanted to be, or where we used to be on navel and joint infections, so we switched products!

First, we switched to Navel Guard at our farm only. We wanted to see if it was even going to work, considering we had been using 7% Iodine since the beginning of time, we were skeptical. 

After just 200 calves, we could already see the difference. We cut navel infections in half, and subsequently, we also cut joint infections in half. WOW. We couldn’t believe the difference. Was it really possible that a simple switch of product on our end could make that big of a difference? 400 calves, later and the results were the same. We were sold. We took our data to the dairy and explained how much cheaper AND more effective it was, and they were on board to give it a go. 

That was over a year ago, and 1400 calves later and I can count the number of navel infections and joint infections I have treated on one hand. We have not had a joint blow out since switching. 

That’s our story, now let me explain the why’s and technicalities of it.

1.     The navel cord is WIDE OPEN at birth, consider that when observing what the calf lands in when they are born. It is a straw that sucks up everything it touches, what does that look like on your farm?

2.     Navels are a DIRECT path to the liver, and to the bloodstream. So, whatever is getting into that navel cord at birth, could be getting into the bloodstream shortly after if not properly managed. 

3.     Blood flows to the joints, but not a lot of it, making it the perfect place for bacteria to settle out. This is why injectable antibiotics aren’t typically effective against joint infections, they just can’t get in there at the right level to take care of the problem. 

4.     The average navel infection costs about $10 to treat, but that doesn’t include time, loss of growth, loss of future milk production, or loss of productive life, if it makes it into the joints. 

5.     Being proactive is the only way to successfully manage navels.

How can you be proactive?

  1. Get the right product. Navel Guard has done amazing work for us.
  2. Come up with a dipping protocol and stick to it.
  3. Create checkpoints at points before you start to have issues. You have to get ahead of it.
  4. Check navels weekly at a minimum from day 0 to day 21.
  5. Check each navel to make sure the calves are getting dipped at birth. Document calves that aren’t dipped.
  6. Make it EASY! Make the dip accessible and make it easy to identify if a calf has been dipped.

Lastly, Why does NAVEL GUARD work so well?

It has a triple mode of action!

1. Isopropyl Alcohol – cleaning, and quickly dries up the navel cord.

2. Ike-Joe – is a proprietary technology that creates a positively charged hydrogen ion, using FDA GRAS ingredients, that is very effective against harmful gram-negative organisms. It continues to work for at least 14 days.

3. Green Acid –  combines organic ingredients and surfactants to make a very effective antimicrobial agent.


·       It’s non-hazardous, so it can be shipped anywhere at any time!

·       It’s far more economical AND still effective.

·       It passed the FDA’s USP <51> antimicrobial test, meaning that it kills quickly, and also continues to kill for at least 14 days to protect the navel.

·       NAVEL GUARD uses food grade dyes for easy identification, and to be able to easily tell if calves are being properly dipped.

·       No prescription is required!

·       Peer reviewed

With navels being such a sneaky issue in calf raising, go ahead and save yourself the time, money, and energy and switch today!

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