Reducing somatic cell count (SCC) on your farm is not just a matter of regulations and rulings — it’s a matter of animal health and good management.
When a proposal to voluntarily reduce the U.S. Grade A Milk SCC limit to 400,000 SCC per milliliter failed at the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments in May, many producers and industry professionals were surprised. The proposal would have put the United States on par with guidelines currently set in the European Union (EU) for milk export limits and was supported by several industry groups. Plus, many groups saw it as a measure to improve the United States’ attention to udder health. While the proposal’s failure means the USDA will have to step in to identify a way to meet the EU standards, producers should continue to implement management practices that improve animal health and milk quality.
“We know that lower somatic counts are a reflection of improved animal health and less mastitis in the herd,” says Linda Tikofsky, Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. “Whether or not there is a regulation on SCC limit, producers should strive to reduce their SCC for the good of their cows, and their milk check.”
Lowering SCC, Improving Herd Health
There are several management practices that contribute to lower SCC1:
Improve udder preparation
Complete and proper udder prep involves stimulating milk letdown by stripping teats, pre-dipping and wiping teats dry before attaching the milking unit. Always wear gloves, sanitize gloves between cows, and use single-service paper towels to dry teats. Hang units squarely beneath the cow, and ensure there are no air leaks or “squawks.” There should be a 60- to 90-second delay between stripping and unit attachment.
Keep cows clean
Reducing infection and SCC is easier when cows are kept in a clean, dry environment. Bedding should be refreshed and stalls groomed frequently.
Maintain good records
Keep track of cows with a history of high SCC and mastitis. A good record keeping system will help when making treatment and culling decisions.
Treat those you can, cull those you can’t
Repeated treatment of cows with chronic mastitis and high SCC doesn’t make economic sense. “When choosing a mastitis tube, you can optimize the chance for a cure the first time by using ‘the right drug for the right bug.’ It is best to culture clinical mastitis to help you make this decision2; however, if culturing isn’t an option, choose a broad-spectrum tube to maximize your chances for a cure,” Tikofsky says. Consider a single-day treatment for lactating cows like ToDAY®, available from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., to get cows back in the tank quickly. If treatment does little to improve SCC, consider culling.