In the past weeks, we discussed briefly how high somatic cell contents in raw milk can affect milk quality and, thus, dairy processing1

In addition to technological issues, the somatic cell count (SCC) can affect the entire dairy supply chain economically. The macroscopic effects are reduced milk production, higher number of culled animals, increased farm costs, lower dairy product yields and lower product quality. 

Although the main impact is on farms, the entire industry is affected. 

Data are the best way to give a tangible idea of this impact, for instance those reported in a study conducted on Irish dairy industry in 20132. It clearly depicts how different classes of SCC can negatively affect the economy of a national dairy supply chain.  

In 2009, udder health and milk quality were recognized as an animal health priority issue, that led to the development of a national programme based on best management practices. To allow the programme to address issues, a quantification of the costs of mastitis to the Irish dairy industry was conducted.     

Why choose bulk milk SCC (BMSCC)? Ireland experienced an upward trend for BMSCC at national level (281,000 cells/ml on average) that has negative implications – the macroscopic effects above. 

Five BMSCC categories were considered in the analysis: ≤100,000, 100,001–200,000, 200,001– 300,000, 300,001–400,000 and >400,000 cells/mL. The reference dairy farm was an average 40-hectare farm.  

At farm level, when BMSCC increased, the volume of milk delivered and milk solids per cow decreased, while the replacement rate increased. Trends for volume of milk delivered and replacement rate of multiparous with primiparous cows (+28%) reflected the increase of BMSCC. Globally, total farm costs increased, in particular because of higher costs for mastitis treatments and replacement. An important impact on the net farm profit was calculated (from €31,252 to €11,748) as BMSCC increased from <100,000 cells/mL to >400,000 cells/mL.

The impact of mastitis on processor profitability was assessed. While protein content significantly increased with increasing SCC values, lactose and casein content substantially decreased, as well as fat and protein recovery during transformation. In cheese, there were a significant increase in moisture and a reduction in protein content when SCC increased. Moreover, the potential volume of dairy products resulted in significant decrease, thus reflecting the impact on milk composition due to BMSCC. The net revenue decreased by 3.2% (€51.3 million) per year as BMSCC increased, as the result of the reduction of product volume available for sale. 

Furthermore, this study highlighted the effect of a potential improvement in BMSCC: the reduction of the national BMSCC of 10,000 cells/ml would lead to an estimated industry benefit of €6.6 million/year. This completely endorsed the choice of a national mastitis programme. 

This study clearly demonstrated by numbers that improved herd management could lead to improved farm and processor profitability. Although the major costs for mastitis management are incurred across dairy farms, part of these costs are incurred also by dairy processors.

As OZOLEA stressed in many articles, best management practices can really make the difference towards efficiency. And, why not, also the use of OZOLEA-MAST to lower SCC.  


1 Lowering somatic cells in our milk for better processing.

2 U. Geary, N. Lopez-Villalobos, B. O’Brien, D.J. Garrick and L. Shalloo. Examining the impact of mastitis on the profitability of the Irish dairy industry. Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research 52: 135–149, 2013