Typically, central milk recording data from dairy herds are recorded less than monthly. Over-fitting early in lactation periods is a challenge, which we explored in different ways by reducing the number of parameters needed to describe the milk yield and somatic cell count of individual cows. Furthermore, we investigated how the parameters of lactation models correlate between parities and from dam to offspring. The aim of the study was to provide simple and robust models for cow level milk yield and somatic cell count for fitting to sparse data to parameterize herd- and cow-specific simulation of dairy herds. Data from 610 Danish Holstein herds were used to determine parity traits in milk production regarding milk yield and somatic cell count of individual cows. Parity was stratified in first, second, and third and higher for milk, and first to sixth and higher for somatic cell count. Fitting of herd level parameters allowed for cow level lactation curves with three, two, or one parameters per lactation. Correlations of milk yield and somatic cell count were estimated between lactations and between dam and offspring. The shape of the lactation curves varied markedly between farms. The correlation between lactations for milk yield and somatic cell count was 0.2–0.6 and significant on more than 95% of farms. The variation in the daily milk yield was observed to be a source of variation to the somatic cell count, and the total somatic cell count was less correlated with the milk production than somatic cells per milliliter. A positive correlation was found between relative levels of the total somatic cell count and the milk yield. The variation of lactation and somatic cell count curves between farms highlights the importance of a herd level approach. The one-parameter per cow model using a herd level curve allows for estimating the cow production level from first the recording in the parity, while a two-parameter model requires more recordings for a credible estimate, but may more precisely predict persistence, and given the independence of parameters, these can be easily drawn for use in simulation models. We also conclude that using total somatic cell count may stabilize models, and therefore, the dilution factor is of importance in Danish Holstein.
Græsbøll, K., Kirkeby, C. T., Nielsen, S. S., Hisham Beshara Halasa, T., Toft, N., & Christiansen, L. E. (2016). Models to Estimate Lactation Curves of Milk Yield and Somatic Cell Count in Dairy Cows at the Herd Level for the Use in Simulations and Predictive Models. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 3, . https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2016.00115