Free Access
Vet. Res.
Volume 34, Number 5, September-October 2003
Mastitis of dairy ruminants
Page(s) 493 - 505
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2003) 493-505
Vet. Res. 34 (2003) 493-505
DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2003029

Statistical modelling for clinical mastitis in the dairy cow: problems and solutions

Patrick Gasqui and Jacques Barnouin

Unité d'Épidémiologie Animale, INRA, 63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France
(Received 9 October 2002, accepted 16 June 2003)

Modelling case occurrence and risk factors for clinical mastitis, as a key multifactorial disease in the dairy cow, requires statistical models. The type of model used depends on the choice of perception or the study level: herd, lactation, animal, udder and quarter. The validity of the tests that are performed through these models is especially ensured when hypotheses of independence between statistical units are respected, and when the model adjustments do not involve overdispersion faced with the observed data. In the article, the main sources of overdispersion are identified according to the different levels of perception of mastitis risk. Then, the proposed solutions to control for overdispersion at each study level are discussed and the difficulty to compare the study results is highlighted through a variety of methodological choices of the authors. Two main categories of models are used for modelling clinical mastitis, i.e. generalist exploratory models and explanatory designed models. The contribution of the explanatory models to improve modelling accuracy and relevance is documented through the two main published methodological approaches, the first one being based on a states model, and the second on a survival model. The integration and optimisation of such explanatory modelling methods should be possible in the future in order to develop a more global explanatory model including herd risk factors, which could pertinently predict udder infections (both clinical and subclinical) at the cow, lactation, or even udder and quarter levels.

Key words: clinical mastitis / dairy cow / epidemiology / modelling / overdispersion

Correspondence and reprints: Patrick Gasqui

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2003