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J Dairy Sci. 2011 Sep;94(9):4406-12. doi: 10.3168/jds.2010-3776.

Evaluation of somatic cell count thresholds to detect subclinical mastitis in Gyr cows.

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Department of Nutrition and Animal Production, School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.


The objectives of this study were (1) to determine the sensitivity (Se) and specificity (Sp) of somatic cell count (SCC) thresholds to identify subclinical mastitis in Gyr cows caused by major and minor pathogens; (2) to study the effects of month of sampling, rear or front mammary quarters, herd, intramammary infection (IMI), and bacterial species on SCC at quarter level; and (3) to describe the prevalence of IMI in Gyr cows in commercial dairy herds. In total, 221 lactating Gyr cows from 3 commercial dairy farms were selected. Milk samples were collected from individual quarters once a month for 1 yr from all lactating cows for SCC and bacteriological analysis. Mammary quarters were considered the experimental units and the SCC results were log(10)-transformed. Four SCC thresholds (100, 200, 300 and 400 × 10(3) cells/mL) were used to determine Se and Sp to identify infected mammary quarters. The overall prevalence of IMI in quarter milk samples of Gyr cows was 49.8%, and the prevalence of minor pathogens was higher (31.9%) than that of major pathogens (17.8%). Quarter samples with microbial isolation presented higher SCC compared with negative samples. Sensitivity and Sp of selected SCC thresholds varied according to the group of pathogen (major and minor) involved in the IMI definition. Sensitivity increased and Sp decreased when mammary quarters with only major pathogens isolation were considered positive. The use of a single SCC analysis to classify quarters as uninfected or infected in Gyr cows may not be a useful test for this breed because Se and Sp of SCC at the studied thresholds were low. The occurrence of IMI and the bacterial species are the main factors responsible for SCC variation in mammary quarters of Gyr cows. Milk samples with major pathogens isolation elicited higher SCC than those with minor pathogens.

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