What would happen if European Union standards for bulk tank somatic cell count were to be imposed tomorrow? Not surprisingly, a number of herds would not be able to meet the new rules.

But how many would be affected? The answer depends on how you want to enforce and interpret BTSCC standards. Either way you slice it, the number of farms impacted may surprise you. Check out this recent evaluation that looks at the effects these rules may have on dairy farms.

Noncompliance with EU standards for bulk-tank somatic cell count was evaluated by several USDA researchers using U.S. Dairy Herd Improvement Association herds and herds supplying milk to four Federal Milk Marketing Orders. The research was published in the December 2011 Journal of Dairy Science.

Somatic cell scores from 14,854 herds and 164,794 herd tests were analyzed for DHI herds. For Federal Milk Marketing Order herds, actual milk marketed and bulk tank somatic cell counts were available from 27,759 herds and 325,690 herd tests.

A herd was noncompliant with the EU standard after four consecutive rolling three-test geometric means were greater than 400,000 cells/mL.

For Federal Milk Marketing Order herds shipping less than 900 tons, noncompliance was 44.5 percent using the frequency method at 400,000 cells/mL compared with 8 percent for herds marketing more than 9,000 tons. 

Noncompliance was 19.1 percent for DHI herd tests in herds with less than 50 cows, compared with 1.1 percent for herds with 1,000 or more cows.

Based on these findings, the researchers suggest more emphasis be placed on reducing the incidence and prevalence of subclinical mastitis through known management practices, such as proper milking techniques, well-functioning milking machines, post-milking teat disinfectant, dry cow treatment, and culling of problem cows to meet any of the proposed new standards.

“Premium payments based on SCC have been highly effective in reducing SCC means, so continuation of these should be encouraged regardless of any changes in standards,” the researchers suggest.