This study was carried out to identify risk factors for subclinical mastitis (SCC > 200,000 cells/ml). A total of 2,657 lactating cows from 24 herds in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, were included in the study. Each farm was visited three times in an 8-month period from November 2005 to June 2006. At each visit, all milking cows were examined for clinical mastitis by a single observer. A total of 3,987 milk samples were examined for somatic cell counts (SCC). The mean, median, and standard deviation values for SCC were, respectively, 608,000, 219,000, and 967,000 cells/ml. Risk factors for subclinical mastitis were: udder positioned at the same height or below the hock, presence of cracks or fissures in the rubber parts of the milking machine, inadequacy of teat cups, infrequent and unsuitable scheme for cleaning the pulsators, milkers unable to operate the milking equipments, no information about the mastitis pathogens present in the herd, immersion of teat cups in disinfectant solution between milkings, and total insertion of cannula in teats during antibiotic treatment. The high variation of the SCC values (608,000± 967,000 cells/ml) suggests that other factors such as number of infected mammary quarters and pathogens involved could have influenced the results. The used methodology did not allow to identify all risk factors that increase SCC. Therefore, the results can also be used to improve the currently mastitis control programs adopted by those herds.
bovine; mastitis; risk factors; somatic cell count