Secondly, herd management practices differ in the areas: cubicle management, milking procedure, udder health management, and dry and fresh cow management among the 3 different herd categories (i.e., good, medium-good, poor udder health) defined based on the UHG concept. Herds with the highest proportion of cows in UHG A applied most measures to prevent mastitis, which, in turn, also explains the low proportions of suspicious cows in such herds. It was further seen that such herds performed better (+9 % milk yields, +11 % longevity, -35 % antibiotic treatments) than herds in the other categories. Hence, using the UHG concept could help to better characterize the udder health status of a dairy herd and encourage relevant stakeholders (e.g., herd managers) to improve udder health through application of more preventive measures.
Thirdly, an expected positive association between the proportion of cows in UHG A (i.e., healthy cows) and herd performance was found.
What did the study reveal in terms of how a dairy herd can benefit from the UHG concept?
We used the UHG concept to categorize herds into good, medium, and poor udder health. This categorization was different than just using SCC as a standalone parameter and it was clearer to identify herds with good udder health. It turned out that these herds put more effort into herd management than those in the other categories. More specifically, they performed excellent cubicle management, had more thorough milking procedures, a more stringent udder health management, and better dry and fresh cow management. This, in turn, means that the UHG concept, particularly the proportion of cows in UHG A, serves as an indicator on how well herd management practices work out in terms of udder health. Given the fact that mastitis is a multifactorial disease and the general complexity of udder health, it is not one or two specific measures that lead to improvements but rather the combination of measures across all herd management areas.
How will the UHG concept impact herd management practices?
A trend indicating that the more cows in UHG A, the higher the average daily production was found. This was not unexpected, as previous studies revealed that cows in UHG A are the most productive ones given that they are the ones that do not seem to be impaired by udder health issues. However, the performance of a dairy herd not only depends on the udder health status but also on factors such as feeding.
Who can benefit from the UHG concept?
All stakeholders involved in milk production could potentially benefit from the UHG concept. The main beneficiaries, however, are probably dairy cows because the incidence of udder health issues can be reduced. Dairy herd managers, veterinarians, and advisors can utilize the data to better monitor the udder health situation on a dairy farm and, in particular, fine-tune existing preventive measures or introduce new ones. The data could potentially also be used to evaluate animal health (and welfare) on a dairy farm and, in this context, possibly become part of incentive schemes.
How will the UHG concept impact the use of antibiotics in dairy farming?
The concept greatly supports the idea of working with measures to prevent mastitis. While the majority of antibiotics used on a dairy farm are applied in connection with udder health, it is commonly known that the best therapy is prevention. Hence, the concept could be used to encourage practitioners to work more with preventive measures and thus contribute to a reduction in the consumption of antibiotics.
Read the full study!
Usefulness of the total and differential somatic cell count based udder health group concept for evaluating herd management practices and udder health in dairy herds - https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2023.105977
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- Differential somatic cell count in milk before, during, and after lipopolysaccharide- and lipoteichoic-acid-induced mastitis in dairy cows - https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2017-14152
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- Investigation of dairy cow performance in different udder health groups defined based on a combination of somatic cell count and differential somatic cell count - https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2020.105123
- Associations between different udder health groups defined based on a combination of total and differential somatic cell count and the future udder health status of dairy cows - https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2021.105374
- Usefulness of the total and differential somatic cell count based udder health group concept for evaluating herd management practices and udder health in dairy herds - https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2023.105977