The influence of the rearing period on intramammary infections in Swiss dairy heifers: A cross-sectional study

M. J. Bludau, A. Maeschli, F. Leiber, P. Klocke, J. A. Berezowski, M. Bodmer*, B. Vidondo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Healthy replacement heifers are one of the foundations of a healthy dairy herd. Farm management and rearing systems in Switzerland provide a wide variety of factors that could potentially be associated with intramammary infections (IMI) in early lactating dairy heifers. In this study, IMI with minor mastitis pathogens such as coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS), contagious pathogens, and environmental major pathogens were identified. Fifty-four dairy farms were enrolled in the study. A questionnaire was used to collect herd level data on housing, management and welfare of young stock during farm visits and interviews with the farmers. Cow-level data such as breed, age at first calving, udder condition and swelling, and calving ease were also recorded. Data was also collected about young stock that spent a period of at least 3 months on an external rearing farm or on a seasonal alpine farm. At the quarter level, teat conditions such as teat lesions, teat dysfunction, presence of a papilloma and teat length were recorded. Within 24 h after parturition, samples of colostral milk from 1564 quarters (391 heifers) were collected aseptically for bacterial culture. Positive bacteriological culture results were found in 49% of quarter samples. Potential risk factors for IMI were identified at the quarter, animal and herd level using multivariable and multilevel logistic regression analysis. At the herd level tie-stalls, and at cow-level the breed category "Brown cattle" were risk factors for IMI caused by contagious major pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus). At the quarter-level, teat swelling and teat lesions were highly associated with IMI caused by environmental major pathogens. At the herd level heifer rearing at external farms was associated with less IMI caused by major environmental pathogens. Keeping pregnant heifers in a separate group was negatively associated with IMI caused by CNS. The odds of IMI with coagulase-negative staphylococci increased if weaning age was less than 4 months and if concentrates were fed to calves younger than 2 weeks. This study identified herd, cow- and quarter-level risk factors that may be important for IMI prevention in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-34
Number of pages12
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Heifer
  • Mastitis
  • Multilevel logistic regression
  • Rearing
  • Risk factor


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