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ESMQC position statement on 400,000 SCC limit

The Empire State Milk Quality Council (ESMQC) is dedicated to the education, promotion, and recognition of quality milk throughout all facets of the New York dairy industry. In keeping with this mission ESMQC believes that the bulk tank somatic cell count level allowed for shipment of milk should be lowered to 400,000 as this change would benefit cows, producers and consumers.

BTSCC is a measure of white blood cells in milk and is not a direct measure of milk quality. However, BTSCC is highly correlated with milk quality and is the most common index used to standardize milk quality.

Uninfected cows have a somatic cell count of <100,000. Researchers have found a high correlation between BTSCC and the incidence of mastitis (infection of the udder) within a herd. At 750,000, the current limit for shipping milk, slightly over 25% of quarters of the udder are infected. Reductions in BTSCC mean better animal welfare as fewer animals ever suffer through an infection and tend to live in a more progressively managed and comfortable environment.

The ESMQC believes that the maximum BTSCC level allowed for shipment of milk should be lowered to 400,000. This level is currently achieved by over 80% of dairies nationally and is readily achievable by many more. This goal would bring the U.S. in line with the E.U., New Zealand, Australia, Canada and other countries and would ease the requirements for export to the world. Lowering the limit to 400,000 would increase milk quality and improve shelf life. As well, lowering the limit would decrease the incidence of mastitis in cows. In the words of Jim Dickrell, past president of NMC, it’s good for the cows, good for dairy producers and processors and good for consumers.

The initiative is strongly supported by the National Mastitis Council, American Dairy Science Society and the USDA.


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