Trimming the umbilical

This page is another in our series which discusses techniques of livestock husbandry .. as we practise them.

Once a new arrival is discovered the umbilical cord needs to be trimmed and disinfected. Joint-ill is a potentially serious condition caused by the passage of bacteria into the open end of the umbilical cord soon after parturition. Symptoms of infection include  painful or swollen joints and the inability to bear weight on affected limbs. Here’s what to do to avoid this condition. As soon as you know an animal has been born get hold of a pair of scissors, a clean towel, and a veterinary disinfectant. We use a commercially available preparation of strong iodine (7%). Iodine will not only clean and disinfect the trimmed umbilicus, it will also help to dry the site as well. If you are around to witness the birth allow the dam some time to clean her new baby, 10-15 minutes should be plenty of time before you intervene. Just after birth the vessels of the umbilical cord may extend some distance down the newly severed cord. If the cord does not break at birth you may still notice the cord pulsing as it moves the last bits of blood into the newborn.  Do not cut the cord until it breaks on its own. Eventually the umbilicus will collapse and seal the vessels of the cord.  Pick up the kid or lamb or, if working with a calf, keep the animal on the ground. Although the cord may be flush with the body you may find that it is long enough to drag along the ground. Trim the cord to within an inch or two of the body. Use a sharp scissors. Once the trim is complete take your iodine  and dip what remains of the cord into the open mouth of the bottle. We push the bottle up against the body to be sure to soak all of the remaining cord as well as the body wall where it connects with the cord. And that’s it. Trimming and disinfecting the cord in this way is easy and very important.

The photos show the equipment to be used (scissors, towel, and 7% iodine), the trailing umbilicus, and the trimmed and disinfected site.

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