Farm Business and Operator Variables Associated with Bulk Tank Somatic Cell Count from Dairy Herds in the Southeastern United States
DeLong, K. L., D. M. Lambert, S. M. Schexnayder, P. D. Krawczel, J. M. Fly, L. Garkovich, and S. P. Oliver.  2017.  Journal of Dairy Science, 100(11):9298-9310.

Mastitis is a worldwide problem in dairy cows and results in reduced milk production, the culling of cows, and other economic losses. Bulk tank somatic cell count (BTSCC) over 200,000 cells/mL often indicates underlying subclinical mastitis in dairy herds. Several preventative measures that can be implemented to help improve the incidence of mastitis exist, but surveys find these practices not fully adopted by producers. The goal of this research was to analyze the farm and operator characteristics associated with BTSCC in dairy herds by analyzing a survey of dairy producers in the southeastern United States. We examined this region because it has experienced a decline in the number of dairy farms, dairy cows, and milk production over the past 2 decades. The southeast region is also associated with higher BTSCC levels than the national average. Dairy farms in Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia were surveyed. Producers were asked questions about the BTSCC at which they take action to address BTSCC, the information sources they use to learn about and manage BTSCC, farm structure and management characteristics, and attitudinal variables associated with profitability, managerial control, and planning horizon. Least squares regression was used to determine how these factors were associated with BTSCC levels across the 7-state region. Concern over mastitis, financial consequences of mastitis, and increased previous-year BTSCC were associated with higher current BTSCC levels. Obtaining information about mastitis from veterinarians and extension personnel, taking action against mastitis at a BTSCC less than 300,000 cells/mL, and perceived ability to control processes and mastitis incidence were associated with reduced BTSCC. We found average BTSCC was lower in North Carolina and Virginia. These results suggest that proactive producers (i.e., those that perceive they can control BTSCC and seek information from reliable sources), were more likely to report lower BTSCC. As a result, it may be possible to achieve improved milk quality, evident from lowered BTSCC, across the region.