Although bulk milk somatic cell count (BMSCC) is, in most instances, not a good proxy for actual average herd somatic cell count (SCC), BMSCC is the only SCC parameter available to monitor trends in udder health for a large number of farms worldwide. The frequency of sampling BMSCC varies considerably between countries, and it is unknown to what extent the sampling interval of BMSCC or variation in BMSCC data itself influences the accuracy. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of sampling interval and variation of the BMSCC data on the accuracy to predict BMSCC. Because BMSCC is measured at regular time intervals, an artificial neural network (ANN) was used to determine both the effect of sampling interval and variation of the BMSCC data. The intervals examined in this study ranged from 4 to 14 d and were compared with the baseline of a standard 2-d sampling interval. The BMSCC data were collected every other day for a 24-mo period on 949 farms, and all series were created by exclusion of BMSCC data in between the original 2-d sampling interval series. The effect of variation of BMSCC was determined by comparing the error of the ANN model in 2 subsets of farms, those with the lowest SD (n=239) and those with a high SD of BMSCC data (n=236). No significant differences were found in any of the sampling intervals between the 2 cohorts of low and high SD in BMSCC. Overall, compared with the 2-d sampling interval, on average the error of the ANN model was 32,600 cells/mL for all farms included, ranging from 15,000 cells/mL (4-d interval) to 41,000 cells/mL (14-d sampling interval). Therefore, the length of the sampling interval greatly influences the usefulness of BMSCC data to monitor trends in udder health at the herd level.
Lievaart, J., Reneau, J. K., Kremer, W. D. J., & Barkema, H. W. (2011). Influence of sampling interval on the accuracy of predicting bulk milk somatic cell count. Journal of Dairy Science, 94(2), 804-807. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2010-3567