The detection of intramammary infections using online somatic cell counts

Gunnar Dalen*, Amira Rachah, Håvard Nørstebø, Ynte H. Schukken, Olav Reksen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Timely and accurate identification of cows with intramammary infections is essential for optimal udder health management. Various sensor systems have been developed to provide udder health information that can be used as a decision support tool for the farmer. Among these sensors, the DeLaval Online Cell Counter (DeLaval, Tumba, Sweden) provides somatic cell counts from every milking at cow level. Our aim was to describe and evaluate diagnostic sensor properties of these online cell counts (OCC) for detecting an intramammary infection, defined as an episode of subclinical mastitis or a new case of clinical mastitis. The predictive abilities of a single OCC value, rolling averages of OCC values, and an elevated mastitis risk (EMR) variable were compared for their accuracy in identifying cows with episodes of subclinical mastitis or new cases of clinical mastitis. Detection of subclinical mastitis episodes by OCC was performed in 2 separate groups of different mastitis pathogens, Pat 1 and Pat 2, categorized by their known ability to increase somatic cell count. The data for this study were obtained in a field trial conducted in the dairy herd of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Altogether, 173 cows were sampled at least once during a 17-mo study period. The total number of quarter milk cultures was 5,330. The most common Pat 1 pathogens were Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus dysgalactiae. The most common Pat 2 pathogens were Corynebacterium bovis, Staphylococcus chromogenes, and Staphylococcus haemolyticus. The OCC were successfully recorded from 82,182 of 96,542 milkings during the study period. For episodes of subclinical mastitis the rolling 7-d average OCC and the EMR approach performed better than a single OCC value for detection of Pat 1 subclinical mastitis episodes. The EMR approach outperformed the OCC approaches for detection of Pat 2 subclinical mastitis episodes. For the 2 pathogen groups, the sensitivity of detection of subclinical mastitis episodes was 69% (Pat 1) and 31% (Pat 2), respectively, at a predefined specificity of 80% (EMR). All 3 approaches were equally good at detecting new cases of clinical mastitis, with an optimum sensitivity of 80% and specificity of 90% (single OCC value).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5419-1429
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • intramammary infection
  • online cell count
  • sensor
  • somatic cell count

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