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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Estimating the nonlinear association of online somatic cell count, lactate dehydrogenase, and electrical conductivity with milk yield

Bonestroo, John; van der Voort, Mariska; Fall, Nils; Emanuelson, Ulf; Klaas, Ilka Christine; Hogeveen, Henk


Reduction of milk yield is one of the principal components in the cost of mastitis. However, past research into the association between milk yield and mastitis indicators is limited. Past research has not been based on online or in-line daily measurements and has not fully explored nonlinearity and the thresholds at which milk yield starts to decrease. In dairy herds with automated milking systems equipped with sensors, mastitis indicators of individual cows are measured on an intraday frequency, which provides unprecedented avenues to explore such effects in detail. The aim of this observational study was primarily to investigate the nonlinear associations of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), electrical conductivity (EC), and somatic cell count (SCC) with milk yield at various stages of lactation, parity, and mastitis chronicity status (i.e., whether the cow had SCC >= 200,000 SCC/mL for the last 28 d). We also investigated thresholds at which mastitis indicators (LDH, EC, and SCC) started to be negatively associated with milk yield. We used data from 21 automated milking system herds measuring EC and online SCC. Of these herds, 7 of the 21 additionally measured online LDH. We operationalized milk yield as milk synthesis rate in kilograms per hour. Applying a generalized additive model, we estimated the milk synthesis rate as a function of the 3 mastitis indicators for 3 different subgroups based on parity, stage of lactation, and mastitis chronicity. Partial dependence plots of the mastitis indicators were used to evaluate the milk synthesis rate to study if the milk synthesis rate was associated with mastitis indicators at a specific level. Results showed that milk synthesis rate decreased with increasing SCC, LDH, and EC, but in a nonlinear fashion. The thresholds at which milk synthesis rate started to decrease were 2.5 LnSCC (12,000 SCC/mL) to 3.75 LnSCC (43,000 SCC/mL), 0 to 1 LnLDH (1-2.7 U/L), and 5.0 to 6.0 mS/cm for EC. Additionally, another substantial decrease of milk synthesis rate was observed at thresholds of 5.625 LnSCC (277,000 SCC/mL) and 3 LnLDH (20 LDH U/L) but not for EC. Having chronic mastitis decreased milk synthesis rate in all models. The identified nonlinearities between mastitis indicators and milk synthesis rate should be incorporated in statistical models for more accurate estimations of milk loss due to mastitis.


mastitis; correlation; generalized additive model; milk loss

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2022, Volume: 105, number: 4, pages: 3518-3529