The National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) is scheduled to meet in May 12-17 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and will be considering a proposal for lowering the maximum allowable somatic cell count (SCC) in milk to 400,000 cells per milliliter. The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has long been a proponent of lowering the SCC threshold to 400,000 cells/ml. The current threshold is 750,000 cells per milliliter. The European Union (EU) and other countries have adopted the 400,000 cell/ml standard, placing import bans on any dairy products sourced from farms with SCCs above that level.
SCC levels measure dead white blood cells in milk, an indication of mammary gland infections. Lower levels of somatic cells indicate higher quality milk. Some federal milk marketing orders have a 350,000 cells/ml threshold to determine milk quality premiums. Dairy processors believe that lower SCC thresholds impact cheese yield, taste and shelf life.
Nelson-Jameson offers several PortaCheck products to help dairy farmers monitor the SCC of individual cows in their herd. UdderCheck LDH Milk Test is an effective tool in monitoring udder health. It measures Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH), an enzyme present in milk when cells are damaged during an udder infection. LDH levels often rise earlier than somatic cell counts, making it an excellent marker for early detection of mastitis.
PortaCheck also offers two somatic cell count tests for on-farm detection of sub-clinical mastitis. The PortaSCC Milk Test is used with a color chart or digital reader. It has a 45 minute reaction time and numerical results are projected by the digital reader. The PortaSCC Quick Test is based on the same technology as the original test, but it has a faster reaction time of 5-6 minutes. It uses a test strip which is compared to a color chart to give a general level of SCC. Read more about these tests here, or check out the instructional video.