Seasonal variation of bulk milk somatic cell counts in UK dairy herds: investigations of the summer rise

Green, M.J., Bradley, A.J., Newton, H. and Browne, W.J.
Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 74:4, 293-308

Individual cow somatic cell count (SCC) patterns were explored over a one year period in 33 dairy herds to investigate the reason for a summer rise in bulk milk somatic cell counts (BMSCC). Cow test day somatic cell counts were categorised according to the magnitude of change since the previous test day reading, to examine which categories were responsible for the summer increase. Multilevel models using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods were specified to estimate the number of somatic cells/ml produced by different cell count categories. Stage of lactation and parity were accounted for in the models. There was an increase in the proportion of cows that remained above 200,000 cells/ml for two consecutive recordings in summer and this group of cows were responsible for 70.8% of the increase in somatic cells/ml produced from May to September compared with October to March. There was no evidence that a greater new infection rate (somatic cell counts moving from below 100,000 cells/ml to over 200,000 cells/ml) contributed to the increased summer bulk milk somatic cell counts. There was no indication that a general small increase in all somatic cell counts played an important role in the increased summer somatic cell counts. Markov chain Monte Carlo methods provided a valuable and flexible platform for parameter estimation in reasonably complex multilevel models.

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Multivariate response model?
Longitudinal data?
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Paper uses MLwiN and WinBUGS to model somatic cell counts in UK dairy cows

Paper submitted by
William Browne, Bristol Veterinary School, University of Bristol,
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