June 28, 2016


Iodine not available through retail stores, catalogs

Dianne Shoemaker, Ohio State University Extension dairy specialist, reports there are changes in availability of 7 percent iodine.

Completing one of the critical steps in newborn calves, foals, lambs, kids and piglet care will now take a little more planning. Having a constant supply of 7 percent tincture of iodine on the farm is more important than it was less than a month ago, as the product is no longer available at local or mail-order farm supply outlets.

Why is 7 percent tincture of iodine, used for dipping newborn livestock navels, no longer available at those sources?
Creative illegal drug manufacturers and unscrupulous livestock supply dealers conspired to use 7 percent iodine to produce iodine crystals which were then used to produce methamphetamines. As a result, the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency moved iodine, previously designated as a “List Two” chemical, to a “List One” chemical. For us, that means the DEA now will regulate sales of all products containing more than 2.2 percent iodine.

You still can purchase 7 percent iodine to dip navels, but it can only be purchased through a vendor who is registered to handle controlled products. It is likely your veterinarian is registered to handle other DEA-controlled substances and may also carry 7 percent iodine for their clients. It will mean extra paperwork for the veterinarian’s business. Talk to them before your current supply runs out.

So, why bother dipping navels at all?

An important step in newborn livestock care is dipping the umbilical cord in a 7 percent tincture of iodine as soon after birth as possible. A tincture contains alcohol. The alcohol provides drying action, while the iodine has disinfectant properties. It is a long-held belief this management practice plays a large role in preventing navel ill and other infections.

Logically, it makes sense. The umbilical cord is the unborn livestock’s lifeline in the uterus, delivering nutrients and removing wastes during gestation. Following birth, it no longer serves those functions, but it is still a direct route into the calf’s body until total closure takes place. Nature provides for the umbilical cord to close off, dry off, fall off, and heal over, just as nature provides for the newborn to receive passive immunity through the dam’s colostrum. Management practices of navel-dipping and hand-feeding colostrum are designed to help nature do its job.

Is there a good substitute for 7 percent tincture of iodine?
Possibly, but right now anyone who tells you anything specific is probably guessing. A quick search of past and current research turns up no studies on this topic specifically.

Can we use one of the iodine-based dairy teat dips?
We do know teat dips are not effective as navel dips. Iodine-based teat dips contain 1 percent iodine or less. They also don’t contain the alcohols comparable to an iodine tincture. Tinctures containing 2 percent iodine still will be available over the counter. A short-term patch would be to use these for several days in a row until the umbilical cord is completely dried. Realistically, most farms are doing well to get a navel dipped once in 7 percent iodine, let alone re-dipping two or three more times.

Dipping navels in 7 percent tincture of iodine is an important management practice, helping to minimize illness and death loss in newborn livestock. Keeping an adequate supply on hand will take a little more planning since the product is now a U.S. DEA List One chemical. Don’t use this change as an excuse not to dip navels. Eventually, a newborn will fall victim to septicemia or navel ill. Don’t let your newborn livestock be victims of illegal drugs.

Miller is the agriculture and natural resources agent of Ohio State University Extension, Medina County. For more information, call Ohio State University Extension Medina County at 330-725-4911, 330-336-6657 or 330-225-7100, ext. 9237. Visit the Extension’s Web page at www.ag.ohio-