Farmers deal with milk quality criteria every day to control somatic cell count (SCC), bacteria levels, freezing point and inhibitors. These criteria are regulated and used by the industry to assess farm milk quality. Being proactive helps Canadian dairy farmers continue to produce milk that is among the best in the world!
What is SCC?
“Fundamentally, milk from a healthy mammary gland already contains a certain number of somatic cells. These cells act as watchdogs in case of an infection. When bacteria enter the mammary gland, SCC increases. To the cow, somatic cells are allies that will fight an infection. The farmer wants to avoid infections as they have an impact on production as well as on the health and well-being of the cow.”
Source: Bovine Mastitis Network
Milk quality is evaluated with every time milk is picked up at the farm. Each time, a milk sample is taken for testing, milk inspectors determine the quality based on four elements that farmers monitor daily. The points below explain the targets and regulations for Milk Quality.
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Milk must be free of substances that inhibit bacterial growth in raw milk, including veterinary drug residues. Penalties are applied if inhibitors of any type are in penalty range in the bulk tank milk sample. Losses and cost may also be charged to an offending producer when a tanker-truck is contaminated if the farmer’s milk sample contains inhibitors in penalty range.
2. Abnormal Freezing Point
Milk has a normal freezing point of less than -0.506°C. A penalty is applied if the official Cryoscope result is greater than the specified level for Abnormal Freezing Point (AFP) of -0.507°C.
In Canada, there are two methods to measure bacteria level in raw milk. In a first method called Bactoscan, milk must contain less than 122,000 Individual Bacteria Cells (IBC) per mL. The second method, used in some provinces and other countries is called Standard Plate Loop Count, and the equivalent threshold is 50,000 CFU/mL.
4. Somatic Cell Count (SCC)
Milk must contain less than 400,000 individual cells (IC) per mL. A milk sample with a test result greater than 399,000 IC/mL is in the penalty range.
The Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network brings together researchers with the expertise on milk quality and udder health.
Farms are inspected provincially to ensure the barns, equipment and facilities are adequate and meet requirements. While all provinces have inspections, here are examples of two provinces that have put the inspection checklist online: