Discriminating between true-positive and false-positive clinical mastitis alerts from automatic milking systems

W. Steeneveld, L.C. van der Gaag, W. Ouweltjes, H. Mollenhorst, H. Hogeveen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Automatic milking systems (AMS) generate alert lists reporting cows likely to have clinical mastitis (CM). Dutch farmers indicated that they use non-AMS cow information or the detailed alert information from the AMS to decide whether to check an alerted cow for CM. However, it is not yet known to what extent such information can be used to discriminate between true-positive and false-positive alerts. The overall objective was to investigate whether selection of the alerted cows that need further investigation for CM can be made. For this purpose, non-AMS cow information and detailed alert information were used. During a 2-yr study period, 11,156 alerts for CM, including 159 true-positive alerts, were collected at one farm in the Netherlands. Non-AMS cow information on parity, days in milk, season of the year, somatic cell count history, and CM history was added to each alert. In addition, 6 alert information variables were defined. These were the height of electrical conductivity, the alert origin (electrical conductivity, color, or both), whether or not a color alert for mastitic milk was given, whether or not a color alert for abnormal milk was given, deviation from the expected milk yield, and the number of alerts of the cow in the preceding 12 to 96 h. Subsequently, naive Bayesian networks (NBN) were constructed to compute the posterior probability of an alert being truly positive based only on non-AMS cow information, based on only alert information, or based on both types of information. The NBN including both types of information had the highest area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC; 0.78), followed by the NBN including only alert information (AUC = 0.75) and the NBN including only non-AMS cow information (AUC = 0.62). By combining the 2 types of information and by setting a threshold on the computed probabilities, the number of false-positive alerts on a mastitis alert list was reduced by 35%, and 10% of the true-positive alerts would not be identified. To detect CM cases at a farm with an AMS, checking all alerts is still the best option but would result in a high workload. Checking alerts based on a single alert information variable would result in missing too many true-positive cases. Using a combination of alert information variables, however, is the best way to select cows that need further investigation. The effect of adding non-AMS cow information on making a distinction between true-positive and false-positive alerts would be minor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2559-2568
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • dairy-cows
  • herds
  • model
  • management
  • networks

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