A new somatic cell count index to more accurately predict milk yield losses
Abstract. Intramammary infection and clinical mastitis in dairy cows leads to considerable economic losses for farmers. The somatic cell concentration in cow's milk has been shown to be an excellent indicator for the prevalence of subclinical mastitis. In this study, a new somatic cell count index (SCCI) was proposed for the accurate prediction of milk yield losses caused by elevated somatic cell count (SCC). In all, 97 238 lactations (55 207 Holstein cows) from 2328 herds were recorded between 2010 and 2014 under different scenarios (high and low levels of SCC, four lactation stages, different milk yield intensities, and parities (1, 2, and ≥ 3). The standard shape of the curve for SCC was determined using completed standard lactations of healthy cows. The SCCI was defined as the sum of the differences between the measured interpolated values of the natural logarithm of SCC (ln(SCC)) and the values for the standard shape of the curve for SCC for a particular period, divided by the total area enclosed by the standard curve and upper limit of ln(SCC) = 10 for SCC. The phenotypic potential of milk yield (305-day milk yield – MY305) was calculated using regression coefficients estimated from the linear regression model for parity and breeding values of cows for milk yield. The extent of daily milk yield loss caused by increased SCC was found to be mainly related to the early stage of lactation. Depending on the possible scenarios, the estimated milk yield loss from MY305 for primiparous cows was at least 0.8 to 0.9 kg day−1 and for multiparous cows it ranged from 1.3 to 4.3 kg day−1. Thus, the SCCI was a suitable indicator for estimating daily milk yield losses associated with increased SCC and might provide farmers reliable information to take appropriate measures for ensuring good health of cows and reducing milk yield losses at the herd level.