Measuring Milk Quality

Measuring Milk Quality

Keeping up with the current market is a challenge for everyone. Healthy cows and low SCCs (Somatic Cell Count) are a main focus point for dairy profitability. Milk quality is measured by SSC which is the number of cells found in an ml of milk. A sick animal will have a higher SCC because its body is fighting off an infection – most commonly mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammatory infection in the mammary gland (located in udders) of a cow. Not only does mastitis affect the quality of milk, but cows are less likely to produce their typical quantity as well since their body is working to fight an infection.

SCC < 100,000 = Healthy Cow

SCC 100,000-199,999 = Infected Cow (Mastitis)

SCC 200,000-399,999 = Cow with Moderate-Severe Mastitis Infection

SCC > 400,000 = Unfit for Human Consumption

Farmers are financially rewarded for low SCC. The higher the SCC, the less money rewarded for bulk milk, and sometimes penalty fees can be incurred. Higher SCC typically means a sick animal, which produces less milk.

Using best practices to keep SCC counts down is imperative in this economy. A few things to keep in mind are:

  • Frequently cleaning manure from alleys.
  • Clean stalls often to remove manure and apply fresh bedding to ensure udders have a clean, dry resting place.
  • Maintaining a good airflow in the barn helps to keep bedding and alleys dry.
  • Nutrition is key. Cows receiving proper nutrients will be healthier and can more readily fight off infection.
  • Practice good hygiene in the milking parlor. Ensure cows’ udders are clean and dry prior to milking. Prevent mastitis with appropriate pre- and post-dips. To prevent the spread of bacteria, always wear gloves while milking and do not reuse towels for multiple cows.
  • Do not over milk – it can lead to damaged teat ends, increasing the chance of infection.


 Bass, Tom. “Remember, Nutrition Can Impact Udder Health and SCC Too.” Progressive Dairy

 “Measuring Milk Quality.” Vet Student Research



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