Improvements in milk quality and udder health are fundamental to retaining the competitive advantage of the dairy industry, especially in the manufacture of high-value dairy products, according to Teagasc’s Dr David Gleeson.

With this in mind, the objective of the Teagasc researcher’s study, which was presented at today’s Teagasc Milk Quality Conference, was to assess current trends in bulk tank milk quality between 2006 and 2011.

“Individual farm milk quality data including bulk tank SCC (Somatic cell count), TBC (total bacterial count) and milk volume data were supplied by 10 milk processors,” he explained courtesy of his presentation.”

Some records from 11,444 farms representing 64 per cent of Irish dairy farms were used for analysis.

The final dataset included 687,767, 625,615 and 200,883 records for SCC, TBC and LPC, respectively, explained Dr Gleeson.

“Throughout the entire study period geometric mean SCC in the national herd improved only slightly (298,057 to 271,456 cells/ ml) and the monthly SCC ranged from 256,448 cells/ ml in May to 376,617 cells/ml in December.

“Herds that sold the least amount of milk annually tended to have the highest SCC. The annual trend for TBC remained stagnant throughout years with TBC decreasing by 500 cfu/ml during the entire period.”

The report found a seasonal effect in monthly TBC where TBC increased during the early spring and winter periods (26,000 cfu/ml) and lowest during the summer period (18,000 cfu/ml).

He added: “During the study period, LPC increased from 197 to 268 CFU/ ml. The lowest monthly LPC count was observed in March (175 CFU/ ml) followed by an increase from April to October (296 CFU/ ml). Minimal changes in both SCC and TBC occurred during the period 2006 to 2011.”

Pictured were a section of the crowd at the Teagasc Moorepark Milk Quality Conference in the Horse & Jockey, Co Tipperary. Photo O’Gorman Photography