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Test‐day somatic cell score, fat‐to‐protein ratio and milk yield as indicator traits for sub‐clinical mastitis in dairy cattle

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Summary

Test‐day (TD) records of milk, fat‐to‐protein ratio (F:P) and somatic cell score (SCS) of first‐lactation Canadian Holstein cows were analysed by a three‐trait finite mixture random regression model, with the purpose of revealing hidden structures in the data owing to putative, sub‐clinical mastitis. Different distributions of the data were allowed in 30 intervals of days in milk (DIM), covering the lactation from 5 to 305 days. Bayesian analysis with Gibbs sampling was used for model inferences. Estimated proportion of TD records originated from cows infected with mastitis was 0.66 in DIM from 5 to 15 and averaged 0.2 in the remaining part of lactation. Data from healthy and mastitic cows exhibited markedly different distributions, with respect to both average value and the variance, across all parts of lactation. Heterogeneity of distributions for infected cows was also apparent in different DIM intervals. Cows with mastitis were characterized by smaller milk yield (down to −5 kg) and larger F:P (up to 0.13) and SCS (up to 1.3) compared with healthy contemporaries. Differences in averages between healthy and infected cows for F:P were the most profound at the beginning of lactation, when a dairy cow suffers the strongest energy deficit and is therefore more prone to mammary infection. Residual variances for data from infected cows were substantially larger than for the other mixture components. Fat‐to‐protein ratio had a significant genetic component, with estimates of heritability that were larger or comparable with milk yield, and was not strongly correlated with milk and SCS on both genetic and environmental scales. Daily milk, F:P and SCS are easily available from milk‐recording data for most breeding schemes in dairy cattle. Fat‐to‐protein ratio can potentially be a valuable addition to SCS and milk yield as an indicator trait for selection against mastitis.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

Publication date: February 1, 2012

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