April 01, 2001


 NMC tackles somatic cell counts, milk quality issues

Posted March 15, 2001

The 40th annual meeting of the National Mastitis Council was the scene of lively debate and ambitious plans for the upcoming year. More than 330 attendees enjoyed the presentations and special events at the meeting, Feb 11-14 in Reno, Nev.

The meeting began with a symposium on somatic cell counts. Speakers covered topics ranging from factors that influence SCC in milk to regulations regarding the number of SCC per milliliter of milk. In keeping with its goal of being the global leader in issues of milk quality, the NMC had speakers from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland present information on SCC limits in their respective regions of the world. A spirited panel discussion on regulatory limits for SCC in the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance concluded the symposium.

Year in review; program sessions
President of the NMC, Dr. Ann Godkin, Fergus, Ontario, Canada, welcomed attendees to the opening session. She reported on the success of NMC efforts during the past year. The international liaison committee held its second meeting, and she indicated that the group was planning to meet again. Translation of NMC materials into foreign languages was continuing.

Success of NMC programs also was evident in the United States. There were 75 nominations for the National Dairy Quality Awards program in 2000, an increase of more than 50 percent over the preceding year.

Robert Franks, Hamilton, New Zealand, presented the keynote address. His presentation, "New Zealand milk quality—lessons learned" provided insights into the improvement in milk quality in that country during the past 30 years. Those changes have enabled New Zealand to become the leading global exporter of milk. Approximately 95 percent of the milk produced in New Zealand is exported to more than 115 countries, accounting for in excess of 30 percent of the internationally marketed dairy products. New Zealand successfully uses a demerit point system to influence producers to maintain milk quality.

Franks believes a single type of test is insufficient to judge the quality of raw milk; instead, a package of tests should be used to assess milk quality. Furthermore, producers must be given information they can use for management. Lastly, he indicated that on-farm quality management is the responsibility of the producers. It is a product of attitude, and the management skills of dairy farmers or their ability to produce high-quality dairy products should not be underestimated.

Other sessions presented information about changes and challenges in the dairy industry that could affect milk quality, including organic farms, robotic milking systems, genetic selection for mastitis-resistant cows, and new treatments for mastitis.

Upcoming efforts
On April 9–10, the NMC is hosting a meeting in conjunction with the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. The 2nd International Symposium on Mastitis and Milk Quality, which is jointly sponsored by the NMC and the AABP, will be held in conjunction with the AABP annual meeting Sept 13–15 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

One of the major projects the NMC will undertake is a proposal that will be submitted for consideration at the 2001 National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments to address SCC regulatory limits in the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. This proposal is similar to a proposal submitted to the NCIMS in 1999. The proposal has two main components. One component would provide that herd SCC would be calculated by use of a three-month, rolling geometric mean. Currently, mean SCC values are calculated by use of an arithmetic mean, which can be greatly influenced by a single high value, such as could result from an outbreak of mastitis. The second component of the proposal would result in a systematic phased reduction in the US regulatory limit for SCC in milk, which would result in a reduction to 400,000 SCC/ml of milk by Jan 1, 2005. The NMC has asked the AABP and AVMA to lend support to this proposal.

Another initiative during the upcoming year will be development of a definition of normal and abnormal milk, based on SCC and clinical signs of mastitis. These guidelines can be used to define health status on a per-gland basis in each cow. Milk from each quarter can be monitored for SCC, using electronic methods. Normal glands will be defined as those that produce milk that has 200,000 SCC/ml; glands with SCC counts between those values are debatable at this time.

This definition, believed to be the first developed in this manner, will serve as a basis for discussion for SCC implications in regulatory limits. Thus, regulatory limits for SCC can be viewed as addressing suitability of milk for human consumption rather than strictly approaching it as an issue of food safety or food quality.

Administrative changes
The NMC staff will be moving to a new location. It is anticipated that the move will offer additional shared personnel to supply assistance with daily operations of the NMC.

Another major change involves a revision to the NMC bylaws. The number of board members was decreased from 48 to 15, which should make it less cumbersome to conduct business of the organization.

Dr. Ann Godkin introduced Gary Heinrich, Kalamazoo, Mich, as the next president. Heinrich has 27 years of commitment to ensuring the quality of dairy products. He believes veterinarians are best suited to deliver information about milk quality, and the NMC will attempt to increase the number of veterinarians involved in mastitis control and milk quality programs.

In addition to Heinrich, other officers elected at the annual business meeting were Steve Nickerson, Homer, La, first vice president; Dr. Andy Johnson, Seymour, Wis, second vice president; Dr. Paul Rapnicki, St Paul, Minn, secretary, and Dr. Leo Timms, Ames, Iowa, treasurer.