Bulk tank somatic cell counts continue to decline.

The was the bottom line of a report released last September by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), which looked at 2011 bulk tank somatic cell counts (BTSCCs) from four of the 10 Federal Milk Marketing Orders. Overall, BTSCCs have decreased every year since 2007.

There are a number of reasons why BTSCC values continue to fall, including quality bonuses and increased awareness of the importance that processors place on producing high-quality milk.

It also has a lot to do with on-farm management of mastitis and milk quality.

“Many of the best management practices that have been long recommended and are known to reduce mastitis and improve milk quality are now highly adopted and almost seen as just standard procedures on most dairy farms,” says Pam Ruegg, extension milk-quality specialist and veterinarian with the University of Wisconsin. “For example, virtually everyone uses pre- and post-milking teat disinfection, most conventional farmers administer dry cow treatments to every quarter of every cow at the end of every lactation, and most cows are milked using modern milking equipment that is serviced on a regular basis.”

Ruegg says that there also continues to be more consistency in milking routines and most cows today are probably milked with some version of the strip, dip, dry, apply procedure.

“Finally, the rapid expansion of many dairy farms and the resulting reduced age of the average cow on those farms is advantageous to producing milk that has lower SCC because younger cows typically have less chronic mastitis infections.”

Read more in “BTSCC continues to drop” in the January 2013 issue of Bovine Veterinarian, a sister publication of Dairy Herd Management.