A rise in somatic cell count (SCC) in a bulk tank at this time of the year should not be ignored. There are countless issues that could potentially be causing the increase, and these need to be investigated.

However, it fundamentally comes down to a cow with a form of either clinical or subclinical mastitis.

While mastitis and SCC are often considered two different issues, they are the same thing – a rise in cell counts is a mastitis issue.

Monitoring SCC

The best way to monitor SCC and mastitis within a herd is through milk recording.

Milk recording allows for the monitoring cell counts within individual cows over a period of time.

This can, and should have an impact on breeding decisions that are made around these individual animals.

Using your milk recording data you should firstly look at the cows with high SCC readings in the last recording. These cows should then be tested using a California Mastitis Test.

Once the problem cow or cows have been identified, a sample of their milk should be taken to determine if antibiotics can help.

A good time to act

Total farm costs increase as SCC increase. Costs on farms this year are high, but milk price is also quite good at the minute, so it really is a good year to look at problem cows.

There is also an issue if a bulk tank exceeds the co-op’s allowed SCC level; this could result in penalties being applied to milk, potentially resulting in significant financial loss.