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Posted: 10/17/2023
Newborn Dairy Calf

Importance of Navel Dipping Newborn Calves

When we talk about caring for newborn calves, we often tend to think about proper colostrum consumption and preventing scours. Along with these important aspects of calf care, we don’t want to forget about navel dipping. Here we’ll break down everything you need to know about this simple practice that works to protect calves from infection – and potentially from losing their lives.

The Importance of Navel Dipping

Though the cord is a vital nutrient vessel that connects the calf fetus to its dam within the uterus, it becomes a bacterial breeding ground after birth. Calves also have a weakened immune system, so it’s especially critical to protect them against disease as soon as they are born. Navel dipping involves dipping the calves’ umbilical cord and navel into a liquid sanitizing solution. This important care protocol helps reduce calves’ risk for navel infections – and umbilical cord hernias – by drying the stump out quickly.

Bacteria can gain entry into a newborn’s bloodstream via the umbilical stump and potentially lead to sepsis. Calves with untreated umbilical cords can also fall victim to E. coli and rotavirus. These kinds of infections can all lead to potentially chronic disease with costly and sometimes challenging treatments. Dipping at birth can reduce the need for additional care expenses and antibiotics in the future.

What Do You Dip a Calf Navel In?

For many years, the go-to solution for navel dipping was a 7% tincture iodine, but now iodine is a regulated chemical on List 1 under the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This can make it more challenging and costly to obtain and ship. However, we do carry a Controlled Iodine Spray from Durvet that contains 1% min titratable iodine. Iodine works to dry the umbilical cord to reduce opportunities for bacteria to gain entry into the bloodstream. That said, proper hygiene in and around the calving area, with dry, fresh bedding at birth and timely colostrum management all help avoid navel infections, too.

The Steps for Proper Navel Dipping

This simple process of navel dipping, when done properly, will dry out the umbilical tissue and set your calf on a positive path. Here are a few steps to consider as you plan to dip your calves:

  1. Choose a reputable solution specifically designed for navel dipping. Have this solution on hand and ready to dip right after calving.
  2. Dip the entire umbilical cord. A partial dip leaves room for bacteria to enter, so be sure to cover the entire cord and navel. It can also help to keep the cord in the solution for 5 seconds. Always follow your chosen product’s label instructions.
  3. Repeat. After the initial dip, check your work to see if you missed part of the cord or navel. It’s completely safe to re-dip right away. Many producers also choose to re-dip regularly every 12-18 hours following calving through the first week of life while the calf is kept in its own living space. These extra dips keep the navel clean and give the calf a dry navel by the time they join the herd.
  4. Monitor the calf until the navel is completely healed (dry). At 3-5 days after birth, gently massage the cord to ensure it’s not hard or enlarged. Look for a soft and pliable cord that doesn’t cause discomfort to the calf with gentle squeezes. If they react, this could mean they have an infection. Discharge and size are also signs of possible infection. At 7 days, the navel size should closely match the size of your thumb. If it’s swollen, talk to your veterinarian for next steps.

The Navel Care Product that Protects Calves

When you want ultra-fast umbilical cord dry down, try Super 7 Ultra Navel Care from Vetericyn. Whether you’ve got calves or other production livestock and farm animals, Super 7 Ultra supports newborn health during critical stages of postpartum. Super 7 Ultra has been proven more effective than 7% tincture of iodine at drying out umbilical and navel tissue. It’s environmentally safe and offers a long shelf life, along with these excellent benefits:

  • Non-toxic and non-flammable (no extra shipping charges for hazardous materials)
  • Includes a dye for visual marking
  • More cost effective than other leading navel dips
  • Can be used for cattle, swine, sheep, horses and goats
Super 7 Ultra is easy to use. Within 30 minutes following birth, simply dip the navel while still wet. Fill up the teat dip cup and totally submerge the animal’s umbilical cord by gently pushing the cup up against the abdomen. This dipping and gentle pushing works to coat and stain the full navel area. Always read label instructions carefully and consult a veterinarian with questions for your specific animals.

Don’t Skip the Dip!

Navel dipping helps get calves off to a positive, healthy start and gives them a better chance of living a long, healthy life. Don’t skip this short and simple step in the calving process that can save you from treating illnesses with costly antibiotics in the future. Shop PBS Animal Health for Super 7 and other iodine products to help the youngest of your herd!

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