Does Your Navel Dip Have You Covered?

After our in depth discussion of the maternity pen, colostrum management, and the vital requirement of a clean place for the newborn calf to land, we are going to move to other newborn (first 24 hours of life) protocols that will help set your calves up for success later down the line.

Navels. You probably picked a navel dip that had something with iodine in it, and if you were really committed you would spend the big bucks ($85+) on the 7% tincture iodine. You dip the calves after their born, and maybe one more time after that, but it never really crosses your mind again much beyond that point.

Unfortunately, that could be compromising your calves without you even fully realizing the impact it is making on your calves now and down the road.

The navel is the calf’s life line for the first 9 months of their life. In utero, calves are connected to their mother via the navel cord. When the calf is born, the navel is still a direct path and wide open path into the calf’s system. If you follow the navel cord back into the calf, it goes to the liver, then to the blood stream, so anything that gets in there has a high potential to make it into the calf, and cause a systematic infection!

Systematic infections can lead to things like pneumonia, gut health issues, and the most commonly known systemic issue cause by navel infections, joint ill. It can also cause a calf to “fail to thrive”.

It’s our job as calf raisers and dairy farmers to keep that navel as clean and free of pathogens as possible. Here are a few ways that you can do that:

  1. Keep the maternity pen and calf pens sanitary.
    • Change the bedding every 3 calvings (per 12’x12′ area if a large pen/shed) in the maternity pen to keep the area clean, dry, and free of bacteria.
      • For example, if you calve on a bedding pack that is 36’x60′, you could potentially go up to 45 calvings without cleaning out that maternity area.
      • Keep in mind, cows like certain conditions to calve in, so one area of the pen may be more highly used than another. This is where good management comes in to determine if that is the case and how to work around that.
    • If cleaning the maternity pen that frequently is not an option, between calvings, spray the calving area down with DK-ll, and top off the bedding with new, clean bedding to freshen it up and reduce the pathogen load.
    • Pro-Tip: Install a DK-ll DOS unit with a retractable hose and spray nozzle in your maternity area to always have product mixed at the correct ratio and be easy to use and access.
  2. Consider the efficacy of your current navel dip.
    • Is the navel cord completely dried in less than 12 hours after the first dipping?
    • Do you seem to have calves that fail to thrive and you can’t pin down exactly the cause?
    • If you check navels at day 2, 5, 7, 10, do more than 5% of navels score over a 2 on the navel scoring chart? If so, you might want to consider switching navel dips.
  3. Cost.
    • In comparison to 7% tincture iodine, Navel Guard costs 1/3 of the price of 7% iodine ($0.11 per calf for Navel Guard @ $28/gallon vs. $0.33 per calf for 7% tincture Iodine @ $85/gallon)
    • The REAL cost.
      • The cost to treat poorly handled navels include things like, drugs costs, labor costs, loss of gain, and even future loss of milk production when looking at the big picture.
    • On average, a navel infection will cost between $20 & $50 depending on drugs needed to cure the navel and time involved. This cost does not include loss of gain, loss of future production, or loss of the animal completely, after spending large amounts on treatment.

If you’re ready to decrease your navel infections, costs, and losses, follow this link to check out Navel Guard. If you want to hear our Navel Guard story, check it out here!

As always, if you want additional guidance on how to effectively add these products to your calf program, and train your employees to properly use them, please reach out!

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