The nonlinear effect of somatic cell count on milk composition, coagulation properties, curd firmness modeling, cheese yield, and curd nutrient recovery

Bobbo, T.; Cipolat-Gotet, C.; Bittante, G.; Cecchinato, A.

Journal of Dairy Science 99(7): 5104-5119


ISSN/ISBN: 0022-0302
PMID: 27179860
DOI: 10.3168/jds.2015-10512
Accession: 059089480

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The aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between somatic cell count (SCC) in milk and several milk technological traits at the individual cow level. In particular, we determined the effects of very low to very high SCC on traits related to (1) milk yield and composition; (2) coagulation properties, including the traditional milk coagulation properties (MCP) and the new curd firming model parameters; and (3) cheese yield and recovery of milk nutrients in the curd (or loss in the whey). Milk samples from 1,271 Brown Swiss cows from 85 herds were used. Nine coagulation traits were measured: 3 traditional MCP [rennet coagulation time (RCT, min), curd firming rate (k20, min), and curd firmness after 30 min (a30, mm)] and 6 new curd firming and syneresis traits [potential asymptotic curd firmness at infinite time (CFP, mm), curd firming instant rate constant (kCF, % × min(-1)), syneresis instant rate constant (kSR, % × min(-1)), rennet coagulation time estimated using the equation (RCTeq, min), maximum curd firmness achieved within 45 min (CFmax, mm), and time at achievement of CFmax (tmax, min)]. The observed cheese-making traits included 3 cheese yield traits (%CYCURD, %CYSOLIDS, and %CYWATER, which represented the weights of curd, total solids, and water, respectively, as a percentage of the weight of the processed milk) and 4 nutrient recoveries in the curd (RECFAT, RECPROTEIN, RECSOLIDS, and RECENERGY, which each represented the percentage ratio between the nutrient in the curd and milk). Data were analyzed using a linear mixed model with the fixed effects of days in milk, parity, and somatic cell score (SCS), and the random effect of herd-date. Somatic cell score had strong influences on casein number and lactose, and also affected pH; these were traits characterized by a quadratic pattern of the data. The results also showed a negative linear relationship between SCS and milk yield. Somatic cell score influenced almost all of the tested coagulation traits (both traditional and modeled), with the exceptions of k20, CFP, and kSR. Gelation was delayed when the SCS decreased (slightly) and when it increased (strongly) with respect to a value of 2, as confirmed by the quadratic patterns observed for both RCT and RCTeq. The SCS effect on a30 showed a quadratic pattern almost opposite to that observed for RCT. With respect to the CFt parameters, kCF decreased linearly as SCS increased, resulting in a linear decrease of CFmax and a quadratic pattern for tmax. Milk SCS attained significance for %CYCURD, %CYWATER, and RECPROTEIN. As the SCS increased beyond 3, we observed a progressive quadratic decrease of the water retained in the curd (%CYWATER), which caused a parallel decrease in %CYCURD. With respect to RECPROTEIN, the negative effect of SCS was almost linear. Recovery of fat and (consequently) RECENERGY was characterized by a more evident quadratic trend, with the most favorable values associated with an intermediate SCS. Together, our results confirmed that high SCS has a negative effect on milk composition and technological traits, highlighting the nonlinear trends of some traits across the different classes of SCS. Moreover, we report that a very low SCS has a negative effect on some technological traits of milk.