Genetic and Economic Analysis for the Relationship between Udder Health and Milk Production Traits in Friesian Cows

  • El-Awady, H.G. (Animal Production Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Kafrelsheikh University) ;
  • Oudah, E.Z.M. (Animal Production Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Mansoura University)
  • Received : 2010.09.13
  • Accepted : 2011.01.03
  • Published : 2011.11.01


A total of 4,752 monthly lactation records of Friesian cows during the period from 2000 to 2005 were used to estimate genetic parameters and to determine the effect of udder health on milk production traits. Three milk production traits were studied: 305-day milk yield (305-dMY), 305-day fat yield (305-dFY) and 305-day protein yield (305-dPY). Four udder health traits were studied: somatic cell count (SCC), mastitis (MAST), udder health status (UDHS) with 10 categories and udder quarter infection (UDQI) with 7 categories. Mixed model least square analysis was used to estimate the fixed effects of month and year of calving and parity (P) on different studied traits. Sire and dam within sire were included in the model as random effects. Data were analyzed using Multi-trait Derivative Free Restricted Maximum Likelihood methodology (MTDFREML) to estimate genetic parameters. Unadjusted means of 305-dMY, 305-dFY, 305-dPY and SCC were 3,936, 121, 90 kg and 453,000 cells/ml, respectively. Increasing SCC from 300,000 to 2,000,000 cells/ml increased UDQI from 5.51 to 23.2%. Losses in monthly and lactationally milk yields per cow ranged from 17 to 93 and from 135 to 991 kg, respectively. The corresponding losses in monthly and lactationally milk yields return per cow at the same level of SCC ranged from 29.8 to 163 and from 236 to 1,734 Egyptian pounds, respectively. Heritability estimates of 305-dMY, 305-dFY, 305-dPY, SCC, MAST, UDHS, UDQI were 0.31${\pm}$0.4, 0.33${\pm}$0.03, 0.35${\pm}$0.05, 0.23${\pm}$0.02, 0.14${\pm}$0.02, 0.13${\pm}$0.03, and 0.09${\pm}$0.01, respectively. All milk production traits showed slightly unfavorable negative phenotypic and genetic correlations with SCC, MAST, UDHS and UDQI. There were positive and high genetic correlations between SCC and each of MAST (0.85${\pm}$0.7), UDHS (0.87${\pm}$0.10) and UDQI (0.77${\pm}$0.06) and between MAST and each of UDHS (0.91${\pm}$0.11) and UDQI (0.83${\pm}$0.07). It could be concluded that the economic losses from mastitis and high SCC are considerable. The high genetic correlation between SCC and clinical mastitis (CM) suggest that the selection for lower SCC would help to reduce or eliminate the undesirable correlated responses of clinical mastitis associated with selection for increasing milk yield. Additionally, it is recommended also that if direct information on under health traits is not available, measures of SCC can be inclusion in a selection criteria to improve the income from dairy cows.


  1. Barkema, H. W., Y. H. Schukken, T. J. G. M. Lam, M. L. Beiboer, H. Wilmink, G. Benedictus and A. Brand. 1998. Incidence of clinical mastitis in dairy herds grouped in three categories by bulk milk somatic cell counts. J. Dairy Sci. 81:411-419.
  2. Bartlett, P. C., C. R. Anderson and J. H. Kirk. 1990. Milk production and somatic cell count in Michigan dairy herds. J. Dairy Sci. 73:2794-2800.
  3. Blosser, T. H. 1979. Economic losses from and the national research program on mastitis in the United States. J. Dairy Sci. 62:119-127.
  4. Boldman, K. G., L. A. Kriese, L. D. Van Vleck and C. P. Van Tassel. 1995. A manual for the use of MTDFREML. A set of programs to obtain estimates of variance and covariances (Draft). USDA, Agricultural Research Service.
  5. Carlen, E., E. Strandberg and A. Roth. 2004. Genetic parameters for clinical mastitis, somatic cell score, and production in the first three lactations of Swedish Holstein cows. J. Dairy Sci. 87:3062-3070.
  6. Coffey, E. M., W. E. Vinson and R. E. Pearson. 1986a. Somatic cell counts and infection rates for cows of varying somatic cell count in initial test of first lactation. J. Dairy Sci. 69:552-555.
  7. Coffey, E. M., W. E. Vinson and R. E. Pearson. 1986b. Potential of somatic cell concentration in milk as a sire selection criterion to reduce mastitis in dairy cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 69:2163-2172.
  8. De Graafa, D. and R. H. Dwingerb. 1996. Estimation of milk production losses due to sub-clinical mastitis in dairy cattle in Costa Rica. Prev. Vet. Med. 26 (3-4):215-222.
  9. De Graves, F. J. and J. Fetrow. 1993. Economics of mastitis and mastitis control. Vet. Clin. N. Am., Food Anim. Prog. 9:421-434.
  10. Dohoo, I. R. and K. E. Leslie. 1991. Evaluation of changes in somatic cell counts as indicators of new intramammary infections. Prev. Vet. Med. 10:225-237.
  11. Dohoo, I. R. and A. H. Meek. 1982. Somatic cell counts in bovine milk. Can. Vet. J. 23:119-125.
  12. Durr, J. W., R. I. Cue, H. G. Monardes, J. Moro-Mendez and K. M. Wade. 2008. Milk losses associated with somatic cell counts per breed, parity and stage of lactation in Canadian dairy cattle. Livest. Sci. 117:225-232.
  13. Eicher, R., E. Bouchard and M. Bigras-Poulin. 1999. Factors affecting milk urea nitrogen and protein concentrations in Quebec dairy cows. Prev. Vet. Med. 39:53-63.
  14. El-Arian, M. N. and H. G. El-Awady. 2008. Assessment of the genetic relationships between udder health and milk production traits in relation to selection for improving resistance to mastitis in Friesian cows in Egypt. J. Agric. Sci. Mansoura Univ. 33:181-192.
  15. Emanuelson, U. 1988. Recording of production diseases in cattle and possibilities for genetic improvements: A review. Livest. Prod. Sci. 20:89-106.
  16. Emanuelson, U., B. Danell and J. Philipsson. 1988. Genetic parameters for clinical mastitis, somatic cell counts, and milk production estimated by multiple-trait restricted maximum likelihood. J. Dairy Sci. 71:467-476.
  17. Emanuelson, U. and H. Funke. 1991. Effect of milk yield on relationship between bulk milk somatic cell count and prevalence of mastitis. J. Dairy Sci. 74:2479-2483.
  18. Geishauser, T., K. Querengasser, M. Nitschke and A. Sorbiraj. 1999. Milk yield, somatic cell counts, and risk of removal from the herd for dairy cows after covered teat canal injury. J. Dairy Sci. 82:1482-1488.
  19. Hagnestam, C., U. Emanuelson and B. Berglund. 2007. Yield losses associated with clinical mastitis occurring in different weeks of lactation. J. Dairy Sci. 90:2260-2270.
  20. Hagnestam-Nielsena, C. and S. Ostergaarda. 2009. Economic impact of clinical mastitis in a dairy herd assessed by stochastic simulation using different methods to model yield losses. Animal 3:315-328.
  21. Hansen, M., M. S. Lund, M. K. Sorensen and L. G. Christensen. 2002. Genetic parameters of dairy character, protein yield, clinical mastitis, and other diseases in the Danish Holstein cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 85:445-452.
  22. Harvey, W. R. 1990. User's guide For LSMLMW, mixed model least squares program. PC-2 Version. Ohio State. University, Columbus (Mimeograph), USA.
  23. Heringstad, B., G. Klemetsdal and J. Ruane. 1999. Clinical mastitis in Norwegian cattle: Frequency, variance components, and genetic correlation with protein yield. J. Dairy Sci. 82: 1325-1330.
  24. Heringstad, B., G. Klemetsdal and J. Ruane. 2000. Selection for mastitis resistance in dairy cattle: a review with focus on the situation in the Nordic countries. Livest. Prod. Sci. 64:95-106.
  25. Hultgren, J. and C. Svensson. 2009. Lifetime risk and cost of clinical mastitis in dairy cows in relation to heifer rearing conditions in southwest Sweden. J. Dairy Sci. 92:3274-3280.
  26. Interbull. 2008. Description of national genetic evaluation systems for dairy cattle traits as applied in different Interbull member countries. Retrieved September 4, 2008 from
  27. Jackson, P. 1996. Skin diseases of the bovine udder and teat. In Pract. 18:76-80.
  28. Janzen, J. J. 1970. Economic losses resulting from mastitis. A review. J. Dairy Sci. 53:1151-1160.
  29. Jorstad, A., T. B. Farver and H. Riemann. 1989. Teat canal diameter and other cow factors with possible influence on somatic cell counts in cow milk. Acta Vet. Scand. 30:239-245.
  30. King, J. O. L. 1972. Mastitis as a production disease. Vet. Rec. 30(14):325-330.
  31. Laevens, H., H. Deluyker, Y. H. Schukken, L. De Meulemeester, R. Vandermeersch, E. De Muelenaere and A. De Kruif. 1997. Influence of parity and stage of lactation on the somatic cell count in bacteriologically negative dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 80:3219-3226.
  32. Lassen, J. M., M. K. Hansen, G. P. Sørensen, Aamand, L. G. Christensen and P. Madsen. 2003. Genetic relationship between body condition score, dairy character, mastitis, and diseases other than mastitis in first-parity Danish Holstein cows. J. Dairy Sci. 86:3730-3735.
  33. Losinger, W. C. 2005. Economic impacts of reduced milk production associated with an increase in bulk-tank somatic cell count on US dairies. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 226(10): 1652-1658.
  34. Lund, M. S., J. Jensen and P. H. Peterson. 1999. Estimation of genetic and phenotypic parameters for clinical mastitis, somatic cell production deviance, and protein yield in dairy cattle using Gibbs sampling. J. Dairy Sci. 82:1045-1051.
  35. Lund, T., F. Miglior, J. C. M. Dekkersand and E. B. Burnside. 1994. Genetic relationships between clinical mastitis, somatic cell count, and udder conformation in Danish Holsteins. Livest. Prod. Sci. 39:243-251.
  36. Luttinen, A. and J. Juga. 1997. Genetic relationships between milk yield, somatic cell count, mastitis, milkability and leakage in Finnish dairy cattle. Interbull Bull. 15:78-83.
  37. Miglior, F., B. L. Muir and B. J. van Doormaal. 2005. Selection indices in Holstein cattle of various countries. J. Dairy Sci. 88: 1255-1263.
  38. Miller, R. H., M. J. Paape, R. Filep and S. Link. 1993. Flow cytometric analysis of neutrophils in cows' milk. Am. J. Vet. Res. 54:1975-1979.
  39. Modransky, P. and B. Welker. 1993. Management of teat lacerations and fistulae in cows. Vet. Med. 88:995-1000.
  40. Mrode, R. A. and G. J. T. Swanson. 1996. Genetic and statistical properties of somatic cell count and its suitability as an indirect means of reducing the incidence of mastitis in dairy cattle. Anim. Breed. Abstr. 66:847-857.
  41. Negussie, E., M. Koivula and E. A. Mantysaari. 2006. Genetic parameters and single versus multi-trait evaluation of udder health traits. Acta Agric. Scand., Section A- Animal Sciences 56:73-82.
  42. Nielsen, U. S., G. A. Pedersen and J. Jensen. 1997. Genetic correlations among health traits in different lactations. Interbull Bulletin, 15:68-77.
  43. Nooruddin, M., M. S. Rahman and M. M. Rahman. 1997. Prevalence and distribution of teat papillomatosis in crossbred and exotic dairy cows. Bangladesh Vet. 14(1-2):5-7.
  44. Nyman, A. K. 2007. Epidemiological studies of risk factors for bovine mastitis. Doctoral thesis. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Uppsala, Sweden. Electronic version available at
  45. O'Rourke, D. 2009. Nutrition and udder health in dairy cows: A review. Ir. Vet. J. 62(Supplement):15-22.
  46. Petzer, I-M., J. Karzis, J. C. Watermeyer, T. J. Van der Schans and R. Van Reenen. 2009. Trends in udder health and emerging mastitogenic pathogens in South African dairy herds. J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. 80(1):17-22.
  47. Philipsson, J., G. Ral and B. Berglund. 1995. Somatic cell count as a selection criteria for mastitis resistance in dairy cattle. Livest. Prod. Sci. 41:195-200.
  48. Poso, J. and E. A. Mantysaari. 1996. Relationships between clinical mastitis, somatic cell score, and production for the first three lactations of Finnish Ayrshire. J. Dairy Sci. 79:1284-1291.
  49. Pryce, J. E., R. F. Veerkamp, R. J. Esslemont, M. A. Kossaibati and G. Simm. 1997. Genetic associations amongst health and fertility traits for two UK recording schemes. Interbull Bulletin, 15:92-97.
  50. Pyorala, S., H. J. Somer and M. Mero. 1992. Clinical, bacteriological and therapeutic aspects of bovine mastitis caused by aerobic and anaerobic pathogens. Br. Vet. J. 148:54-62.
  51. Rupp, R. and D. Boichard. 1999. Genetic parameters for clinical mastitis, somatic cell score, production, udder type traits, and milking ease in first lactation Holsteins. J. Dairy Sci. 82:2198-2204.
  52. Schepers, A. J., T. J. G. M. Lam, Y. H. Schukken, J. B. M. Wilmink, and W. J. A. Hanekamp. 1997. Estimation of variance components for somatic cell counts to determine thresholds for uninfected quarters. J. Dairy Sci. 80:1833-1840.
  53. Schepers, J. A. and A. A. Dijkhuizen. 1991. The economics of mastitis and mastitis control in dairy cattle: A critical analysis of estimates published since 1970. Prev. Vet. Med. 10:213-224.
  54. Schukken, Y. H., F. J. Grommers, D. Van de Geer, H. N. Erb and A. Brand. 1990. Risk factors for clinical mastitis in herds with a low bulk milk somatic cell count. 1. Data and risk factors for all cases. J. Dairy Sci. 73:3463-3471.
  55. Schultz, L. H. 1977. Somatic cells in milk - physiological aspects and relationship to amount and composition of milk. J. Food Prot. 40(2):125-131.
  56. Seegers, H., C. Fourichon and F. Beaudeau. 2003. Production effects related to mastitis and mastitis economics in dairy cattle herds. Vet. Res. 34:475-491.
  57. Shook, G. E. 1989. Selection for disease resistance. J. Dairy Sci. 72:1349-1362.
  58. Simianer, H., H. Solbu and L. R. Schaeffer. 1991. Estimated genetic correlations between disease and yield traits in dairy cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 74:4359-4365.
  59. Weller, J. I., A. Saran and Y. Zeliger. 1992. Genetic and environmental relationships among somatic cell count, bacterial infection, and clinical mastitis. J. Dairy Sci. 75:2532-2540.
  60. Wilson, L. L., R. J. Eberhart, M. J. Simpson, H. Varela-Alvarez, M. C. Rugh and L. G. Bair. 1971. Incidence of intramammary infections and effects of number of lactations, lactation stage, quarter and calf sex on somatic cell content of milk from Angus-Holstein F1 cows. J. Anim. Sci. 33:433-437.