PROBABLY the most informative figures in the ICBF data are those that confirm that we have a very serious SCC problem in this country. In May, the figures for SCC were around 250.
At the end of June, the average SCC had risen to 300, which is unacceptable. The average level of SCC in unrecorded cows is likely to be even higher. This is reducing milk yields, lowering the manufacturing value of the milk, and lowering milk price to the farmer – and it indicates high levels of infection and mastitis.
The SCC levels of recorded heifers jumped from a high level of 168 in May to 238 in June. Heifers should normally be well under 100 and remain there for the year, unless they are being infected. The ICBF data indicate widespread infection. Every farmer should aim to have herd SCC levels comfortably under 200. In most situations the cost of reducing SCC is not very great, and usually involves only a change of practices. Once the problem has been brought under control it can be relatively easy to maintain low SCCs.
One large southern co-op who carried out a major control programme in conjunction with two Teagasc advisers have had major success in lowering the SCC of their suppliers.
These SCC levels could give our dairy industry a bad name, and limit the products – such as baby or health foods – that our milk can be used for. This poses such a serious problem for our dairy industry that an effective national campaign should be undertaken immediately.
A lot of the personnel who have most knowledge about SCC control have retired, or are posted to other duties. Teagasc had very effective mastitis/SCC control programmes in place with co-ops in the 1990s, but most of them were withdrawn, which reflected very bad judgement by people in charge of Teagasc. Half hearted efforts by co-ops and Teagasc are of little use.
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