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Short communication: Effectiveness of tools provided by a dairy company on udder health in Dutch dairy farms

Steeneveld, W., Velthuis, A.G.J., Hogeveen, H.
Journal of dairy science 2014 v.97 no.3 pp. 1529-1534
Internet, bulk milk, dairy farming, farmers, farms, health status, herds, risk, somatic cell count, statistical analysis, udders, world wide web
A Dutch dairy company initiated a quality system to support dairy farmers to improve sustainability on their farm. Improvement of udder health is defined by the dairy company as one of the sustainability items. A part of that quality system is to offer farmers 3 tools to improve the udder health status of the herd. The first tool is an Udder Health Workshop at which farmers make a farm-specific action plan to improve the udder health situation in their herd. The second tool is the Udder Health Navigator, which is an internet-based program to gain insight in the actual udder health situation at the farm. The third tool is the Udder Health Checklist, which is available on the internet and it identifies farm-specific risks for udder health problems. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of these tools in improving udder health. The bulk milk somatic cell count (BMSCC) was used as the measure of herd udder health performance. In total, 605 farms attended the Udder Health Workshop, 988 farms completed the Udder Health Navigator, and 1,855 farms completed the Udder Health Checklist in 2012. Information on BMSCC records (2 records per month) was available for 12,782 Dutch dairy farms during the years 2011 and 2012. For every farm, the average BMSCC of all months during the years 2012 and 2011 were calculated. This resulted in 306,768 average monthly observations of the BMSCC. Subsequently, all months after the completion of one of the tools were assigned a 1, and all other months were assigned a 0. A statistical analysis was carried out to compare the average monthly BMSCC of the farms that completed one or more tools with farms that did not complete one of the tools. Both completing the Udder Health Navigator and the Udder Health Checklist had a significant association with a lower average monthly BMSCC. The effect of the Udder Health Navigator and Udder Health Checklist on the BMSCC were greater in herds with a BMSCC in 2011 of 200,000 to 250,000 cells/mL and even greater for herds with a BMSCC above 250,000 cells/mL compared with herds with a BMSCC in 2011 of 150,000 to 200,000 cells/mL or less than 150,000 cells/mL. It is difficult to draw conclusions on the effect of the Udder Health Workshop due to overlap in participation between the tools. The results suggest that completing the web tools is associated with a reduction in the BMSCC of the herd.