Trends in somatic cell count deteriorations in Dutch dairy herds transitioning to an automatic milking system

Bart H.P. van den Borne*, Niek J.M. van Grinsven, Henk Hogeveen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Udder health is at risk when herds transition from a conventional milking system (CMS) to an automatic milking system (AMS). Somatic cell counts (SCC) are generally elevated for several months following a transition. However, such observations were made in studies conducted in the early 2000s. Technical improvements to AMS have likely been made since then, and farm management may have improved, learning from past experiences. This longitudinal observational study quantified national trends in SCC deteriorations in dairy herds that transitioned from a CMS to an AMS. Census data from the Dutch test day recording was used to determine these trends. It consisted of all cow-level SCC measurements conducted in the Netherlands from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2019. Three udder health indicators, including the natural logarithm of the yield-corrected bulk-milk SCC, the proportion of cows having a composite SCC ≥200,000 cells/mL, and the proportion of cows having a new elevated SCC, were evaluated using multivariable population-averaged generalized estimation equations. Predicted values resulting from these statistical models were interpreted to determine trends in SCC deteriorations from 12 mo before and 12 mo after the transition to an AMS. Decreasing SCC deteriorations were observed during the study period for all 3 udder health indicators. Udder health deteriorations around the transition to an AMS were still observed, but they decreased in magnitude over the course of the study period. Bulk-milk SCC deteriorations were, for instance, 2.5 times lower in 2019 compared with those observed in 2007. Therefore, the effect of transitioning to an AMS on udder health became less severe in more recent years. However, deteriorations in the proportion of new SCC elevations were still evident toward the end of the study period. Efforts to lower udder health deteriorations in herds that transition to an AMS should therefore be continued and should intensify on factors lowering the proportion of cows having a new elevated SCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6039-6050
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number5
Early online date18 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • dairy cattle
  • milk quality
  • robotic milking
  • subclinical mastitis


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