A longitudinal study in 3 dairy herds was conducted to profile the distribution of coagulase-negative Staphylococcus (CNS) species causing bovine intramammary infection (IMI) using molecular identification and to gain more insight in the pathogenic potential of CNS as a group and of the most prevalent species causing IMI. Monthly milk samples from 25 cows in each herd as well as samples from clinical mastitis were collected over a 13-mo period. Coagulase-negative staphylococci were identified to the species level using transfer-RNA intergenic spacer PCR. The distribution of CNS causing IMI was highly herd-dependent, but overall, Staphylococcus chromogenes, Staphylococcus xylosus, Staphylococcus cohnii, and Staphylococcus simulans were the most prevalent. No CNS species were found to cause clinical mastitis. The effect of the most prevalent species on the quarter milk somatic cell count (SCC) was analyzed using a linear mixed model, showing that Staph. chromogenes, Staph. simulans, and Staph. xylosus induced an increase in the SCC that is comparable with that of Staphylococcus aureus. Almost all CNS species were able to cause persistent IMI, with Staph. chromogenes causing the most persistent infections. In conclusion, accurate species identification cannot be ignored when studying the effect of CNS on udder health, as the effect on SCC differs between species and species distribution is herd-specific. Staphylococcus chromogenes, Staph. simulans, and Staph. xylosus seem to be the more important species and deserve special attention in further studies. Reasons for herd dependency and possible cow- and quarter-level risk factors should be examined in detail for the different species, eventually leading to cost-benefit analyses for management changes and, if needed, treatment recommendations. Copyright © 2011 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.