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The Countdown to 400,000

March 28, 2012
By: Jim Dickrell, Dairy Today Editor
p 10 The Countdown to 400,000

Compliance required by Aug. 1

If you’ve been confused by the deadlines for meeting the European Union’s certification requirements for dairy exports, you are not alone. Even today, documents on USDA’s website indicate that if a farm’s three-month somatic cell count (SCC) average is above 400,000 cells/ml, the farm will not be able to ship milk that is used in export products on May 1.

The reality, according to Ken Vorgert, chief of USDA’s Dairy Grading Branch, is that the clock starts ticking on April 30. That’s the date by which dairy processors must notify USDA which farms are above 400,000 cells/ml.

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More on SCC Compliance:

January, February and March of 2012 will be used to establish a farm’s rolling three-month average. If a farm’s three-month SCC average is above 400,000 cells/ml, the farm’s milk buyer must report that fact to USDA in April.

To be out of compliance, and thus ineligible to sell milk for export, a farm’s rolling three-month average must be above 400,000 for the month of notification, April, and three more consecutive months—May, June and July. "It’s only if the three-month rolling average is above 400,000 for four months that it becomes an issue," Vorgert says.

If a farm’s average cell count drops below 400,000, the clock is restarted. However, the farm’s rolling mean continues to roll forward. If the rolling mean exceeds 400,000, USDA must again be notified and the farm then has the month of notification plus three more consecutive months to bring it back down.

The standard for fluid Grade A milk within the U.S. remains at 750,000 cells/ml. Grade B milk going into cheese sold domestically also has a 750,000 cells/ml limit.

In the past, processors who exported dairy products to Europe merely had to certify that their silos and commingled tanker loads of milk from multiple farms met the 400,000 SCC limit. Now, as in Europe, individual farms must meet the standard.

In effect, however, the 400,000 SCC level will become the new national standard. That’s because milk is processed into ingredients which then go into various dairy and other food products.

Once those ingredients enter the marketing stream, there is no way to differentiate between products made from high-SCC milk and those made from low-SCC milk. In order to comply, all milk will essentially have to meet the standard unless a producer can find a local processor who will accept the milk or can obtain a temporary exemption.

It’s anyone’s guess as to how many farms won’t be able to meet the new export requirements. "It could be as many as 5,000 farms nationally, or roughly 10%," Vorgert says. "I’m being told that a lot of people are making an effort to come into compliance. But we will not get to zero for a while."

If there is any agreement, it’s that the volume of milk will be much less than the percentage of noncompliant milk volume.

A study completed by two USDA agencies last year suggests that 15% to 18% of herds that ship milk into four of the 10 Federal Milk Marketing Orders and 7% to 8% of Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) herds nationally would not have met the 400,000 SCC standard in 2010.

The herds that would have struggled to meet the requirement tend to be smaller. The volume of milk ranged from 6% to 8% of Federal Orders milk to about 3% of DHI milk.

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FEATURED IN: Dairy Today - April 2012

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