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J Dairy Sci. 2010 Dec;93(12):5716-28. doi: 10.3168/jds.2010-3223.

Somatic cell counts and bacteriological status in quarter foremilk samples of cows in Hesse, Germany--a longitudinal study.

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Department of Animal Sciences, Division of Microbiology and Animal Hygiene, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Burckhardtweg 2, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Somatic cell counts (SCC) are generally used as an indicator of udder health. Currently in Germany, 100,000 cells/mL is the threshold differentiating infected and noninfected mammary glands. The aim of our study was the detailed analysis of udder health in a representative part of the dairy cow population in Hesse, Germany. Between 2000 and 2008, 615,187 quarter foremilk samples were analyzed. In addition to evaluation of distribution of SCC and prevalence of mastitis pathogens, pathogen prevalence was also calculated depending on SCC. The data indicated that 38% of all samples had SCC >100,000 cells/mL and 62% showed SCC ≤ 100,000 cells/mL; 31% of all samples revealed SCC ≤ 25,000 cells/mL. Coagulase-negative staphylococci were the dominant pathogens in the Hessian quarter foremilk samples (17.17% of all samples) followed by Corynebacterium spp. (13.56%), Streptococcus uberis (8.7%), and Staphylococcus aureus (5.01%). Mastitis pathogens were detected in 83% of all samples with SCC >100,000 cells/mL. However, the prevalence of mastitis pathogens in the SCC range from 1,000 to ≤ 100,000 cells/mL was 8.5% (5.51% minor pathogens, 2.01% major pathogens, and 0.98% other pathogens). For farms producing high quality milk, exceptional hygiene management is compulsory. One of the farms randomly selected showed clearly different results from the Hessian survey. Fifteen percent more samples lay in the SCC range ≤ 100,000 cells/mL with a lower prevalence of mastitis pathogens of 1.91% (1.03% minor pathogens, 0.83% major pathogens, and 0.05% other pathogens). Based on these results, inflammatory processes can obviously be detected in mammary glands of udder quarters healthy according to the current definitions. However, we argue that such inflammation can be detected by examination of the relationship of immune cells in milk.

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