Effect of Herd Characteristics, Management Practices, and Season on Different Categories of the Herd Somatic Cell Count

Jan Lievaart, H.W. Barkema, W. D. J. Kremer, J. Van den Broek, J.H.M. Verheijden, J.A.P. Heesterbeek

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In this study, the contribution of management practices, herd characteristics, and seasonal variables to the herd somatic cell count (SCC) was quantified in herds with low (<150,000 cells/mL), medium (150,000'200,000 cells/mL), and high (>200,000 cells/mL) herd SCC (HSCC). Selection of the variables was performed using a linear mixed effect model; HSCC was calculated as the arithmetic mean of the individual cow's SCC. The data concerning management practices were derived from 3 questionnaires on mastitis prevention and management practices on 246 Dutch dairy farms. The monthly Dairy Herd Improvement test data of these 246 farms were used to calculate the herd characteristics and seasonal effects. None of the management practices were associated with HSCC in all 3 HSCC categories. Some variables only had a significant association with HSCC in one HSCC category, such as dry premilking treatment ('9,100 cells/mL in the low HSCC category) or feeding calves with high SCC milk (11,100 cells/ mL in the medium HSCC category). Others had an opposite effect on HSCC in different HSCC categories, such as average parity ('6,400 and 11,000 cells/mL inthe low and medium HSCC category, respectively) and feeding calves with fresh milk (10,300 and '9,700 cells/mL in the low and high HSCC category, respectively). We conclude that, given the individual Dairy Herd Improvement data and information on management practices of an individual farm, it is possible to provide quantitative insight into the contribution of these different variables to the HSCC of an individual farm. Being able to provide such insight is a prerequisite for interpretation, prediction, and control of HSCC on individual dairy farms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4137-4144
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


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