I guess I am being optimistic in this cold weather but I am starting to prepare for summer and this led to thinking about navel infections. When the weather is hot, bacteria and flies are thriving, and everyone is busy with planting, harvesting, and the million other things that have to happen on a farm- and things can slip. However, with navel infection it is definitely true that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
I was further reminded of that by a recent article by University of Guelph's Dr. Dave Renaud's recently published work in the Journal of Dairy Science on risk factors for death in veal calves. Dr. Dave and colleagues found that calves that arrived at a veal facility with a navel infection were 2.4 times more likely to die in the first 21 days post arrival AND 1.8 times more likely to die during the remaining growing period relative to calves without navel infections.
This was no surprise to me as when things go wrong and we have a calf with a navel infection, I know that she is in for a rough road. Even when the infection is caught early and treated, I am likely to see that calf further down the road with respiratory disease. This is why prevention is key.
At birth, the umbilical cord provides direct access for bacteria into the body. Risk factors for navel infections include cleanliness of calving area, cleanliness of calf pens,failure of passive transfer, a short umbilical cord (often a result of being delivered backwards or by c-section), and cross-sucking of navel.
So as we head into summer, it is important to remember all of these factors and keep management focused on prevention while keeping an eye out for new cases.
Sorry for the nasty picture, but this is a great example of why navels must be carefully monitored - especially in the summer.
A navel infection + flies = major problems!
It's important that the first things a calf is exposed to is clean bedding and colostrum - not manure and bacteria - so lots of fresh of straw. Even if you have to recruit some extra help!