We conducted a longitudinal study to evaluate the effect of non-aureus staphylococci (NAS) causing subclinical intramammary infections (IMI) on quarter milk somatic cell count (qSCC) and quarter milk yield (qMY). In total, 324 quarters of 82 Holstein Friesian heifers were followed from calving to 130 d in milk (DIM) and were sampled 10 times each at 14-d intervals. The IMI status of each quarter was determined based on bacterial culture results at the current and previous or next sampling day, or both. The qSCC was determined on each sampling day and the average qMY on sampling day was available through stored daily milk weight data in the management program of the automatic milking system. A transient IMI (tIMI) was defined as a case where a specific pathogen was isolated from a quarter on only one sampling day and not on the previous or next sampling day. When the same bacterial strain, as defined by random amplification of polymorphic DNA-PCR, was isolated from the same quarter on multiple sampling days, it was defined as a persistent IMI (pIMI) status on those sampling days; a pIMI episode was defined as the combination of multiple consecutive pIMI statuses with the same bacterial strain on different sampling days. During this study, 142 subclinical IMI with NAS occurred in 116 different quarters from 64 animals, yielding in total 304 NAS isolates belonging to 17 different species. The prevalence of NAS was highest in the first 4 DIM. Overall, the predominant species was Staphylococcus chromogenes (52% of the isolates), followed by S. epidermidis (9.2%), S. xylosus (8.2%), and S. equorum (5.9%). Staphylococcus chromogenes was the only species for which an effect on qSCC and qMY could be analyzed separately; the other NAS species were considered as a group because of their low prevalence. Eighteen out of 40 IMI (45%) caused by S. chromogenes persisted over at least 2 sampling days, whereas only 10 of 102 (9.8%) IMI caused by other NAS species persisted for at least 2 sampling days. The average duration of pIMI episodes was 110.4 d for S. chromogenes and 70 d for the other NAS species. Remarkably, 17 of the 18 pIMI episodes with S. chromogenes started within the first 18 DIM. The qSCC was highest in quarters having a pIMI with a major pathogen, followed by quarters having a pIMI with S. chromogenes, and a pIMI with other NAS. Transient IMI with other NAS or with a major pathogen caused a small but significantly higher qSCC, whereas the qSCC in quarters having a tIMI with S. chromogenes was not statistically different compared with noninfected quarters. No significant differences in qMY were observed between quarters having a pIMI or tIMI with S. chromogenes or with the other NAS species compared with noninfected quarters, despite the higher qSCC. Quarters having a pIMI with major pathogens showed significantly lower daily milk production. Surprisingly, quarters that cured from an IMI with S. chromogenes had a significantly lower qMY than noninfected quarters.
- non-aureus staphylococci
- quarter milk yield
- quarter somatic cell count
- species-specific intramammary infection