Subclinical mastitis in dairy cows is a big economic loss for farmers. The monitoring of subclinical mastitis is usually performed through Somatic Cell Count (SCC) in farm but there is the need of new diagnostic systems able to quickly identify cows affected by subclinical infections of the udder. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential application of thermographic imaging compared to SCC and bacteriological culture for infection detection in cow affected by subclinical mastitis and possibly to discriminate between different pathogens. In this study we evaluated the udder health status of 98 Holstein Friesian dairy cows with high SCC in 4 farms. From each cow a sample of milk was collected from all the functional quarters and submitted to bacteriological culture, SCC and Mycoplasma spp. culture. A thermographic image was taken from each functional udder quarter and nipple. Pearson’s correlations and Analysis of Variance were performed in order to evaluate the different diagnostic techniques. The most frequent pathogen isolated was Staphylococcus aureus followed by Coagulase Negative Staphylococci (CNS), Streptococcus uberis, Streptococcus agalactiae and others. The Somatic Cell Score (SCS) was able to discriminate (p<0.05) cows positive for a pathogen from cows negative at the bacteriological culture except for cows with infection caused by CNS. Infrared thermography was correlated to SCS (p<0.05) but was not able to discriminate between positive and negative cows. Thermographic imaging seems to be promising in evaluating the inflammation status of cows affected by subclinical mastitis but seems to have a poor diagnostic value.
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