I’m always impressed when I go to a dairy and the somatic cell counts are displayed on an erase board for everyone to see.

Earlier this month, I went to a dairy in north central Kansas where the counts have been below 200,000 cells/mL every month this year. In August, the average was 171,000. 

The dairy had these posted in a visitor reception area next to the break room, telling everyone that milk quality is a priority and the milkers are doing a good job of meeting those goals.

On Wednesday, I got the national equivalent of this ― a statement from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service showing continued improvement in bulk tank somatic cell counts. 

In 2011, bulk tank somatic cell counts dropped for the fourth year in a row. Of 324,465 milk shipments monitored, the mean or average was 206,000 cells/mL, which is a considerable improvement over the 260,000 recorded in 2007. (The counts in 2007 may have been up due to high milk prices, which kept some cows in production longer than they normally would have been.) 

To access the report, click here.

There appear to be several reasons for the improvement:

  • More milkers are wearing gloves during milking.
  • Increased use of single-use cloths or towels.
  • More cows are being milked in parlors.

For more details, see “Milk quality continues to improve.”

At a time when much of the news in the industry is bad, it is nice to have some good news for a change.