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Prev Vet Med. 2011 May 1;99(2-4):91-101. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2011.02.010.

Pathogen group specific risk factors at herd, heifer and quarter levels for intramammary infections in early lactating dairy heifers.

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Department of Reproduction, Obstetrics and Herd Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium.


Risk factors for intramammary infections caused by coagulase-negative staphylococci, contagious major pathogens and environmental major pathogens in early lactating heifers were evaluated at the herd, heifer and quarter levels. In total, 764 quarters of 191 dairy heifers in 20 randomly selected farms in Flanders (Belgium) were sampled. Quarter milk samples were collected between 1 and 4 days in milk and between 5 and 8 days in milk for bacteriological culture. Data were analyzed using multivariable, multilevel logistic regression analysis. Higher average herd milk somatic cell count (>200,000 cells/mL), not having an effective fly control strategy, contact with lactating cows prior to calving and moderate to severe udder edema prior to calving increased the odds of intramammary infections caused by contagious major pathogens. Poor heifer hygiene and lack of mineral/vitamin supplementation prior to calving were risk factors for intramammary infection caused by environmental major pathogens. Teat apex colonization with coagulase-negative staphylococci prior to calving seemed to protect quarters against intramammary infections caused by major pathogens. Poor heifer hygiene before calving, a non-clipped udder and not practicing of teat dipping prior to calving increased the odds of intramammary infection with coagulase-negative staphylococci. Although management is important in the prevention and control of intramammary infections in early lactating heifers, most variation in the prevalence of intramammary infections resided at the heifer and quarter levels, indicating that the susceptibility for intramammary infections around calving is mainly determined by heifer and quarter characteristics.

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