A multilevel model with clustered management practices differentiating dairy herd environments in southeastern Sicily

E. Raffrenato a,*, R.W.Blake a,b, P.A.Oltenacu c, M.Gambina d, G.Licitra d,e

a- Department of Animal Science, CornellUniversity, Ithaca, NY14853, USA
b- Department of Animal Science and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Michigan State University, USA
c- Department of Animal Science, Oklahoma StateUniversity, Stillwater 74078, USA
d- CoRFiLaC, RegioneSiciliana, 97100 Ragusa, Italy
e- Dipartimento di Scienze delle Produzioni Agrarie e Alimentari (DISPA), Università di Catania, 95100 Catania, Italy


Herd environments constitute productivity potentials, or aggregate opportunity outcomes, resulting from management actions taken with the available inputs. Management outcomes from cow nutrition, udder health and milking practices were quantified with the help of surveys of 254 dairy producers in south eastern Sicily. Objectives were to disentangle environmental opportunities by disaggregating herd effects into causal inputs. Average ME milk production was 8640kg/lactation for the183 Friesian herds containing 35 lactating cows and 10 dry cows. Seventy-one Brown Swiss herds averaged 6443 kg ME milk from 25 lactating and 10 dry cows. For Friesian(Brown Swiss) herds10 (11) management practices affected milking performance and 9(8) practices influenced somatic cell concentration(P<0.05). Multilevel analysis and herd clustering procedures differentiated low from high opportunity herd environments but altering relative weightings among management practices did not further discriminate them. This clustering methodology helps ensure unbiased estimation of management input effects and could help target priority management substitutions and technical support priorities in dairy extension programs.

Keywords: Herd environmental definitions, Management practices, Animal breeding

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Emiliano Raffrenato