Hyde, R. M., Down, P. M., Bradley, A. J. et al. 2020. Automated prediction of mastitis infection patterns in dairy herds using machine learning. Scientific Reports 10(1), 4289.
Mastitis in dairy cattle is extremely costly both in economic and welfare terms and is one of the most significant drivers of antimicrobial usage in dairy cattle. A critical step in the prevention of mastitis is the diagnosis of the predominant route of transmission of pathogens into either contagious (CONT) or environmental (ENV), with environmental being further subdivided as transmission during either the nonlactating “dry” period (EDP) or lactating period (EL). Using data from 1000 farms, random forest algorithms were able to replicate the complex herd level diagnoses made by specialist veterinary clinicians with a high degree of accuracy. An accuracy of 98%, positive predictive value (PPV) of 86% and negative predictive value (NPV) of 99% was achieved for the diagnosis of CONT vs ENV (with CONT as a “positive” diagnosis), and an accuracy of 78%, PPV of 76% and NPV of 81% for the diagnosis of EDP vs EL (with EDP as a “positive” diagnosis). An accurate, automated mastitis diagnosis tool has great potential to aid non-specialist veterinary clinicians to make a rapid herd level diagnosis and promptly implement appropriate control measures for an extremely damaging disease in terms of animal health, productivity, welfare and antimicrobial use.