In the Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, the majority of dairy herds are covered by disease recording systems, in general based on veterinary registration of diagnoses and treatments. Disease data are submitted to the national cattle databases where they are combined with, e.g., production data at cow level, and used for breeding programmes, advisory work and herd health management. Previous studies have raised questions about the quality of the disease data. The main aim of this study was to examine the country-specific completeness of the disease data, regarding clinical mastitis (CM) diagnosis, in each of the national cattle databases. A second aim was to estimate country-specific CM incidence rates (IRs).
Over 4 months in 2008, farmers in the four Nordic countries recorded clinical diseases in their dairy cows. Their registrations were matched to registrations in the central cattle databases. The country-specific completeness of disease registrations was calculated as the proportion of farmer-recorded cases that could be found in the central database. The completeness (95% confidence interval) for veterinary-supervised cases of CM was 0.94 (0.92, 0.97), 0.56 (0.48, 0.64), 0.82 (0.75, 0.90) and 0.78 (0.70, 0.85) in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, respectively. The completeness of registration of all CM cases, which includes all cases noted by farmers, regardless of whether the cows were seen or treated by a veterinarian or not, was 0.90 (0.87, 0.93), 0.51 (0.43, 0.59), 0.75 (0.67, 0.83) and 0.67 (0.60, 0.75), respectively, in the same countries. The IRs, estimated by Poisson regression in cases per 100 cow-years, based on the farmers’ recordings, were 46.9 (41.7, 52.7), 38.6 (34.2, 43.5), 31.3 (27.2, 35.9) and 26.2 (23.2, 26.9), respectively, which was between 20% (DK) and 100% (FI) higher than the IRs based on recordings in the central cattle databases.
The completeness for veterinary-supervised cases of CM was considerably less than 100% in all four Nordic countries and differed between countries. Hence, the number of CM cases in dairy cows is underestimated. This has an impact on all areas where the disease data are used.