Stress related to wild canid predators near dairy sheep farms associated with increased somatic cell counts in bulk-tank milk

Eleni I. Katsarou, Neil Reid, Daphne T. Lianou, George C. Fthenakis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

We investigated the association between wild canid predators reported near sheep farms throughout Greece and somatic cell counts in bulk-tank milk as a reflection of milk quality. The study included 325 dairy sheep flocks, where bulk-tank milk somatic cell counts and total bacterial counts were measured and staphylococci were isolated. Farms were divided into three groups: Cohort A (farms with no reports of wild canid predators nearby), B (farms with canid predators (golden jackal and grey wolf) nearby yet with no experience of livestock losses to predation) and C (farms with canid predators nearby and livestock losses to predation). Somatic cell counts in bulk-tank milk of Cohort C farms were significantly higher, + 43% and + 29%, compared to those for Cohorts A and B, respectively: 0.617 × 106 cells mL−1 versus 0.433 × 106 or 0.477 × 106 cells mL−1, respectively. The presence of wild canid predators near sheep farms was associated with lower quality milk potentially indicative of stress consistent with the potential effects of a landscape of fear. Increasing biosecurity measures at livestock farms, e.g., fencing, and presence of livestock guard dogs could minimise predation risk, whilst also improving livestock welfare by reducing predator-associated stress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3252
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports
Volume14
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 08 Feb 2024

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