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J Dairy Sci. 2009 Jul;92(7):3124-33. doi: 10.3168/jds.2008-1719.

Relationship between somatic cell count and milk yield in different stages of lactation.

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Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, PO Box 7023, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.


The association between somatic cell count (SCC) and daily milk yield in different stages of lactation was investigated in cows free of clinical mastitis (CM). Data were recorded between 1989 and 2004 in a research herd, and consisted of weekly test-day (TD) records from 1,155 lactations of Swedish Holstein and Swedish Red cows. The main data set (data set A) containing 36,117 records excluded TD affected by CM. In this data set, the geometric mean SCC was 55,000 and 95,000 cells/mL in primiparous and multiparous cows, respectively. A subset of data set A (data set B), containing 27,753 records excluding all TD sampled in lactations affected by CM, was created to investigate the effect of subclinical mastitis (SCM) in lactations free of CM. Daily milk yields were analyzed using a mixed linear model with lactation stage; linear, quadratic and cubic regressions of log(2)-transformed and centered SCC nested within lactation stage; weeks in lactation; TD season; parity; breed; pregnancy status; year-season of calving; calving, reproductive, metabolic and claw disorders; and housing system as fixed effects. A random regression was included to further improve the modeling of the lactation curve. Primiparous and multiparous cows were analyzed separately. The magnitude of daily milk loss associated with increased SCC depended on stage of lactation and parity, and was most extensive in late lactation irrespective of parity. In data set A, daily milk loss at an SCC of 500,000 cells/mL ranged from 0.7 to 2.0 kg (3 to 9%) in primiparous cows, depending on stage of lactation. In multiparous cows, corresponding loss was 1.1 to 3.7 kg (4 to 18%). Regression coefficients of primiparous cows estimated from data set B were consistent with those obtained from data set A, whereas data set B generated more negative regression coefficients of multiparous cows suggesting a higher milk loss associated with increased SCC in lactations in which the cow did not develop CM. The 305-d milk loss in the average lactation affected with SCM was 155 kg of milk (2%) in primiparous cows and 445 kg of milk (5%) in multiparous cows. It was concluded that multiparous cows in late lactation can be expected to be responsible for the majority of the herd-level production loss caused by SCM, and that preventive measures need to focus on reducing the incidence of SCM in such cows.

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