It's no accident that some farms achieve low somatic cells counts on a consistent basis.

In fact, a Dutch study reported in the July 1998 edition of the Journal of Dairy Science found certain similarities among farms that maintain their somatic cell counts below 150,000. Those herds pay close attention to hygiene. And, a number of management practices contribute to the lower cell counts, including removal of udder hair, ample bedding, clean milking parlors, consistent dry cow treatment, and nutrient supplementation for springing heifers, dry and lactating cows.

Based on this and other studies, University of Minnesota dairy scientist Jeff Reneau developed a somatic cell count risk assessment quiz, which appears at right.

Take the quiz. Be honest in your answers.

Read each of the statements and then rate your farm on a scale of 1 to 5 for each item, with 5 being the best and 1 the worst. Add up your score to see how your dairy rates.

___ Cows have no visible manure or dirt on flanks, udder, or lower rear legs and feet.

___ Udder hair is removed every three months.

___ Stalls are cleaned frequently. Soiled bedding is removed at each milking. Fresh organic (sawdust, straw, etc.) bedding is added daily, or fresh sand bedding is added weekly.

___ Generous amounts of bedding are used.

___ Dry cows are checked daily for evidence of clinical mastitis.

___ Calving pens are clean. Pens are completely cleaned and fresh bedding is added between calvings.

___ Milking parlors are clean. There is no buildup of manure or dirt on the milking equipment.

___ Milk is kept out of the bulk tank at least 48 to 72 hours after calving.

___ Post-milking teat dip is used consistently.

___ All quarters of all dry cows are dry-cow treated.

___ Transition diets and nutrient supplementation are used for springing heifers and dry and lactating cows.

___ Producers and employees keep abreast of current practices to improve milk quality and udder health by reading and/or attending workshops.

___ Detailed herd records, including clinical mastitis treatment records, are kept.

___ Milkers enjoy milking cows.

___ Emphasis is on getting the job done right rather than getting the job done quickly.

___ Total score

Scoring system:
Keep up the good work!

Good job.
However, there is still room for improvement.

Time to get
serious about milk quality.

30 or less:
Get with it!
Are you producing food, or running a summer camp for bacteria?