Animal Health & Disease Management

Navel III

Navel III

Other common names: Joint ill, Omphalophlebitis
Description: Infection of the navel in newborn calves, often leading to joint ill

Calf with Navel III
Calf with Navel III

(c) Dr. Mario Younan for Biovision



Signs of Navel Ill / Joint Ill

Navel ill is an infection in newborn calves that enters the body through the umbilical cord.  It is caused by different bacteria (Corynebacterium, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Actinomyces) and occurs when a calf is born in a very dirty environment.

As soon as the calf has been born the umbilical cord comes into contact with bacteria that thrive in dirty stables and pens. The infection moves up through the umbilical cord and then spreads via the blood in the whole body. After a few days the navel ill bacteria settle in different parts of the body where they multiply and cause disease. In most calves the bacteria will settle in the joints. This leads to joint ill, usually affecting the large joints of the legs. The joints swell up and are full of pus. Affected calves lose appetite and are reluctant to stand up or move. The navel is also swollen and may contain pus. In some calves the bacteria my settle in the liver or in the brain. In such cases the calf will normally die.


Navel ill / Joint Ill does not respond very well to antibiotic injection, because the drug does not penetrate effectively into the joints.  Very early treatment, when the navel is hot but the joints are not yet swollen is more successful.



Calves that drink colostrum soon after birth will be protected against the bacteria that cause navel ill. Also, dipping the umbilical cord into iodine immediately after birth will prevent bacteria from entering it. – Once the umbilical cord has dried up bacteria can no longer use it as an entry into the body. – Providing clean bedding for the cow to give birth can also prevent navel Ill (see under Assisting with birth).

Table of content