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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Homogeneity density scores of quarter milk in automatic milking systems

Sandgren, C. Hallen; Anglart, D.; Klaas, I. C.; Ronnegard, L.; Emanuelson, U.


Milk quality and clinical mastitis in dairy cows are monitored by detecting visually abnormal milk. A standardized method to evaluate clots in milk and studies of the incidence and dynamics of clots in milk at the quarter level are lacking. We validated a method to score clot density in quarter milk samples and describe the prevalence and dynamics of the density scores between consecutive samplings and periods in 4 farms with automatic milking systems. Using in-line filters, we collected quarter milk samples at each milking during 3 periods of 30 h each in each farm. Clot density was scored based on coverage of the filter area as 0 (negative), 1 (trace), 2 (mild), 3 (moderate), 4 (heavy), and 5 (very heavy). The score for a specific quarter and milking is referred to as the quarter milking score (QMS). Three assessors independently scored 902 images of filter samples with a Fleiss kappa value of 0.72. In total, 21,202 quarter milk samples from 5,398 milkings of 621 cows were collected. Of the quarter filter samples, 2.4% had visible clots, distributed as mild (1.4%), moderate (0.6%), heavy (0.3%), and very heavy (<0.1%, n = 8). Cases with a cow period sum of QMS >= 4, corresponding to 9.4% of all periods, harbored 86% and 94% of all QMS of 2 to 5 and 3 to 5, respectively. Of these cases, cows sampled in all 3 periods and clots in only 1 period had a quarter period sum score >= 1 in 1.8 different quarters in average. Corresponding numbers for the cows with clots or traces in 2 or 3 periods were 2.2 and 2.5 different quarters, respectively. A QMS of 2 to 5 in the preceding milking increased the chance of a QMS >1 in the following milking, with an average chance of 38%. The probability of a QMS > 1 increased with increasing previous QMS, a higher sum of QMS during the milking period, longer milking interval, and higher lactation number, but decreased with increasing days in milk. Our study showed that the method of clot-density scoring is feasible to perform and reproducible for investigating the occurrence and dynamics of clots in milk. Elevated clot-density scores clustered within certain cows and cow periods and appeared in new quarters of the cows over time. The low recurrence of QMS of 1 and 2 within quarters indicated that QMS 3 could be a reasonable threshold for detecting quarters with abnormal milk that require further attention.


mastitis; dairy cow; clot; quarter milk; score

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2021, Volume: 104, number: 9, pages: 10121-10130