Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson today released the annual list of top Minnesota dairy herds with low somatic cell counts (SCC). Somatic cell count is a key indicator of milk quality – a lower SCC count is better for cheese production and a longer shelf life for bottled milk. In honor of June Dairy Month, 112 dairy farms are being recognized for superior herd management skills by achieving an average SCC of under 100,000.
“It’s especially important to recognize these dairy farmers at a time when milk prices are low and the dairy industry is struggling,” said Commissioner Frederickson. “Despite that adversity, these producers have worked hard to improve the management of their herds to reach this level of excellence.”
Although somatic cells occur naturally and are not a food safety concern, dairy farmers monitor them because they can be used as a measure of the health of their cows. Processors also pay a premium for milk with low counts. A farmer whose herd has a very low count can receive a significantly higher price per hundredweight compared to a farmer whose herd average is high.
For nearly fifteen years the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and University of Minnesota dairy experts have worked with the state’s dairy farmers to lower somatic cell counts. When the initiative began in 2003, the 100 herds honored that year included those with SCC averages as high as 144,000, compared to the current goal of obtaining a SCC under 100,000.
The SCC list of Minnesota dairy farms is online at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/lowscc.
Margaret Hart, MDA Communications