Two Otter Tail County farms were recently recognized for superior cow care. Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson announced that among the 136 Minnesota dairy herds with low somatic cell counts (SCC). Somatic cell count were Suzanne Jacobs (Nelson Creamery Association) and Joseph Schmidt (Pro Ag Farmers Co-op).
Somatic cell counts is a key indicator of milk quality - a lower SCC count is better for cheese production and a longer shelf life for bottled milk. In honor of June Dairy Month, the dairy farms were recognized for superior herd management skills by achieving an average SCC of under 100,000 in 2015.
For more than a decade Minnesota Department of Agriculture and University of Minnesota dairy experts have been working with the state's dairy farmers to lower somatic cell counts. When the initiative began in 2003, the 100 herds honored that year included those with SCC averages as high as 144,000, compared to the current goal of obtaining a SCC under 100,000.
Although somatic cells occur naturally and are not a food safety concern, dairy farmers monitor them because they can be used as a measure of the health of their cows. Processors also pay a premium for milk with low counts. A farmer whose herd has a very low count can receive a significantly higher price per hundredweight compared to a farmer whose herd average is high.
The full list of Minnesota dairy farms is online at www.mda.state.mn.us/lowscc.