Somatic cell counts dropping

Teagasc milk quality specialist Dr David Gleeson has told AgriLand that somatic cell count (SCC) levels are continuing to fall on Irish dairy farms.

“This is good news for producers as it allowing them to secure stronger returns for their milk. This improving situation can, in part be attributed to the increasing number of dairy farmers that are now milk recording.

“The current figures indicate that the number of farmers now milk recording is increasing by 10 per cent per annum.”

In stark contrast to the situation pertaining with regard to SCC levels, Gleeson went in to confirm that TBC (total bacterial count) levels in milk have remained relatively unchanged over the past number of years.

“But this might be about to change. Milk formula manufacturers are concerned about the challenging levels of Thermoduric bacteria in the milk they are receiving off-farm and, in particular, the control of Bacillus cereus,” the Teagasc representative continued.

“This is a problem that cannot be tackled at processor level: the work required must be carried out by the primary producer. And it is for this reason that I feel confident that many processors will shortly turn their attention to the issue of reducing TBC levels in milk.”

Gleeson was speaking in the run up to the Teagasc Milk Quality Conference, taking place in the Horse and Jockey in Co Tipperary on Wednesday next week.

“This is the first time that we have hosted a formal conference in a number of years,” he further commented. “And we are expecting approximately 200 delegates to attend. Adding to the calibre of the event is the selection of international speakers taking part.

“Maintenance and improvement in milk quality will be increasingly challenging in the expanding milk production environment post-quota. The continued high quality of Irish milk can give Irish dairy products the competitive edge on world markets. Therefore, it is critical that the standard of milk production is of the highest quality. The production of such milk and new tools to assist in achievement of premium standards will be discussed at next week’s event.”

Gleeson concluded: “The conference will provide a unique forum for information and discussion of best practice along the milk production and processing chain. It will be of specific interest to those working in the areas of milk quality control, analysis, management and advisory.”

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