His dairies have made dramatic reductions in somatic cell counts over the past several years — from an annual average of 359,000 in 2001 to 204,000 in 2009.

That did not happen by accident.

It all boils down to a commitment to excellence, David Sumrall, president of DPS Dairies in Florida and other Southeastern states, told a NMC (formerly National Mastitis Council) audience on Feb. 2.

“We are striving for excellence, and we talk about it a lot,” he said.

Sumrall quoted the famous philosopher Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

He also debunked some myths when it comes to milk quality:

·         Myth 1: Somatic cells go up in summer when temperatures and humidity increase. Temperature and humidity are not responsible — at least not physiologically — for higher SCCs. “Elevated SCC counts are the result of one and only one thing, and that is infection in the mammary gland,” he said.

·         Myth 2: It is normal for SCCs to go up as days-in-milk increase. “Neither the cow nor any of her four quarters has a clue how long they have been in milk,” he said. Again, elevated SCCs are the result of just one thing — infection in the mammary gland.

·         Myth 3: The NMC milking routine sounds good, but with large herds like ours, it is impossible to use a full parlor routine and get all of the cows milked. “This one makes me laugh,” Sumrall said. “I spent an inordinate amount of my time early on in my career trying to figure out an easier way to get cows through the barn faster. I tried it all. The fact is that at no time has milk quality been better than when we were utilizing the full NMC-recommended routine. We just had to learn how to apply it in large parlors of varying sizes.”

The primary key to quality is sanitation, he said. Cows must have a clean, dry and comfortable place to live.