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Divergent selection on milk somatic cell count in goats improves udder health and milk quality with no effect on nematode resistance.

TitleDivergent selection on milk somatic cell count in goats improves udder health and milk quality with no effect on nematode resistance.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsRupp, R, Huau, C, Caillat, H, Fassier, T, Bouvier, F, Pampouille, E, Clément, V, Palhiere, I, Larroque, H, Tosser-Klopp, G, Jacquiet, P, Rainard, P
JournalJ Dairy Sci
Date Published2019 Jun

Milk somatic cell count (SCC) is commonly higher in goats than in cattle and sheep. Furthermore, the ability of milk SCC to predict mastitis is considered lower in goats than in cattle and sheep, and the relevance of somatic cell score (SCS)-based selection in this species has been questioned. To address this issue, we created 2 divergent lines of Alpine goats using artificially inseminated bucks with extreme estimated breeding values for SCS. A total of 287 goats, 158 in high- and 129 in low-SCS lines, were scrutinized for mastitis infections. We subjected 2,688 milk samples to conventional bacteriological analyses on agarose and bacterial counts were estimated for positive samples. The SCS, milk yield, fat content, and protein content were recorded every 3 wk. Clinical mastitis was systematically noted. A subset of 40 goats (20 from each line) was subsequently challenged with Haemonchus contortus and monitored for anemia (blood packed cell volume) and fecal egg counts to see if SCS-based selection had an indirect effect on resistance to gastrointestinal nematodes. Milk production traits, including milk quantity, fat content, and protein content, were similar in both goat lines. In contrast, the raw milk SCC almost doubled between the lines, with 1,542,000 versus 855,000 cells/mL in the high- and low-SCS lines, respectively. The difference in breeding value for SCS between lines was 1.65 genetic standard deviation equivalents. The Staphylococcus spp. most frequently isolated from milk were S. xylosus, S. caprae, S. epidermidis, and S. aureus. The frequency of positive bacteriology samples was significantly higher in the high-SCS line (49%) than in the low-SCS line (33%). The highest odds ratio was 3.49 (95% confidence interval: 11.95-6.25) for S. aureus. The distribution of bacterial species in positive samples between lines was comparable. The average quantity of bacteria in positive samples was also significantly higher in high-SCS goats (69 ± 80 growing colonies) than in low-SCS goats (38 ± 62 growing colonies). Clinical cases were rare and equally distributed between high- (n = 4; 2.5%) and low-SCS (n = 3; 2.3%) lines. Furthermore, the larger the amounts of bacteria in milk the higher the SCS level. Conversely, goats with repeatedly culture-negative udders exhibited the lowest SCC levels, with an average of below 300,000 cells/mL. We therefore confirmed that SCS is a relevant predictor of intramammary infection and hygienic quality of milk in goats and can be used for prophylactic purposes. After challenge with H. contortus, goats were anemic with high fecal egg counts but we found no difference between the genetic lines. This result provides initial evidence that resistance to mastitis or to gastrointestinal nematodes infections is under independent genetic regulation. Altogether, this monitoring of the goat lines indicated that SCS-based selection helps to improve udder health by decreasing milk cell counts and reducing the incidence of infection and related bacterial shedding in milk. Selection for low SCC should not affect a goat's ability to cope with gastrointestinal nematodes.

Alternate JournalJ. Dairy Sci.
PubMed ID30904305