Somatic cell count in the diagnosis of subclinical mastitis in sheep of different breeds
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The aims of this study were to determine the occurrence of subclinical mastitis in sheep of different breeds and the values for somatic cell count (SCC) in milk for the diagnosis of the disease at lactation and weaning, a fundamental prerequisite for identifying animals in need of control measures. Milk samples were obtained from 1,457 mammary halves of Santa Inês, Texel, Ile de France, and Dorper sheep at two different periods, during the second week of lactation and at weaning. After teats antisepsis, the samples were collected, and identifcation of the infectious etiology of mastitis and determination of SCC were performed. Microorganisms were identifed in 117/762 (15.3%) mammary halves in the second week of lactation and in 86/694 (12.4%) at weaning. Coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) were the etiological agents with the highest incidence alone and in association with other microorganisms, with percentages of 58.1% and 60.6%, respectively. The Santa Inês presented a higher incidence of subclinical mastitis when compared to the other breeds. The cut-off values of SCC for subclinical mastitis were determined at both sampling periods and varied according to stage of lactation, as well breed. These results illustrate the lack of a universal value that can be used for the diagnosis of mastitis and suggests the need for permanent follow-up in herds in order to control the disease.