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 southeastern Sicily. Objectives were to disentangle environmental
opportunities by disaggregating herd effects into causal inputs. Average ME milk production was
8640 kg/lactation for the 183 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) herds 10 (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