• Association between somatic cell count early in the first lactation and the lifetime milk yield of cows in Irish dairy herds

      Archer, S.C.; Mc Coy, F.; Wapenaar, W.; Green, M.J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2013-05-18)
      Change in lifetime milk yield is an important component of the cost of diseases in dairy cows. Knowledge of the likelihood and scale of potential savings through disease prevention measures is important to evaluate how much expenditure on control measures is rational. The aim of this study was to assess the association between somatic cell count (SCC) at 5 to 30 d in milk during parity 1 (SCC1), and lifetime milk yield for cows in Irish dairy herds. The data set studied included records from 53,652 cows in 5,922 Irish herds. This was split into 2 samples of 2,500 and 3,422 herds at random. Linear models with lifetime milk yield and first-lactation milk yield as the outcomes and random effects to account for variation between herds were fitted to the data for the first sample of herds; data for the second sample were used for cross-validation. The models were developed in a Bayesian framework to include all uncertainty in posterior predictions and parameters were estimated from 10,000 Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations. The final model was a good fit to the data and appeared generalizable to other Irish herds. A unit increase in the natural logarithm of SCC1 was associated with a median decrease in lifetime milk yield of 864 kg, and a median decrease in first-lactation milk yield of 105 kg. To clarify the meaning of the results in context, microsimulation was used to model the trajectory of individual cows, and evaluate the expected outcomes for particular changes in the herdlevel prevalence of cows with SCC1 ≥400,000 cells/mL. Differences in mean lifetime milk yield associated with these changes were multiplied by an estimated gross margin for each cow to give the potential difference in milk revenue. Results were presented as probabilities of savings; for example, a 75% probability of savings of at least €97 or €115/heifer calved into the herd existed if the prevalence of cows with SCC1 ≥400,000 cells/ mL was reduced from ≥20 to <10 or <5%, respectively, and at least €71/heifer calved into the herd if the prevalence of cows with SCC1 ≥400,000 cells/mL was reduced from ≥10 to <5%. The results indicate large differences in lifetime milk yield, depending on SCC early in the first lactation and the findings can be used to assess where specific interventions to control heifer mastitis prepartum are likely to be cost effective.
    • Bayesian evaluation of budgets for endemic disease control: An example using management changes to reduce milk somatic cell count early in the first lactation of Irish dairy cows

      Archer, S.C.; Mc Coy, F.; Wapenaar, W.; Green, M.J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier BV, 2014-01-01)
      The aim of this research was to determine budgets for specific management interventions to control heifer mastitis in Irish dairy herds as an example of evidence synthesis and 1-step Bayesian micro-simulation in a veterinary context. Budgets were determined for different decision makers based on their willingness to pay. Reducing the prevalence of heifers with a high milk somatic cell count (SCC) early in the first lactation could be achieved through herd level management interventions for pre- and peri-partum heifers, however the cost effectiveness of these interventions is unknown. A synthesis of multiple sources of evidence, accounting for variability and uncertainty in the available data is invaluable to inform decision makers around likely economic outcomes of investing in disease control measures. One analytical approach to this is Bayesian micro-simulation, where the trajectory of different individuals undergoing specific interventions is simulated. The classic micro-simulation framework was extended to encompass synthesis of evidence from 2 separate statistical models and previous research, with the outcome for an individual cow or herd assessed in terms of changes in lifetime milk yield, disposal risk, and likely financial returns conditional on the interventions being simultaneously applied. The 3 interventions tested were storage of bedding inside, decreasing transition yard stocking density, and spreading of bedding evenly in the calving area. Budgets for the interventions were determined based on the minimum expected return on investment, and the probability of the desired outcome. Budgets for interventions to control heifer mastitis were highly dependent on the decision maker's willingness to pay, and hence minimum expected return on investment. Understanding the requirements of decision makers and their rational spending limits would be useful for the development of specific interventions for particular farms to control heifer mastitis, and other endemic diseases.