Jim Dickrell is the editor of Dairy Today and is based in Monticello, Minn.
The Fiasco in Baltimore
May 07, 2011
Shame on the 26 nameless, spineless bureaucrats who voted last week against lowering U.S. somatic cell count limits to 400,000 – for acting more in fear for their jobs than in doing the right thing.
To say there was disappointment last week when delegates to the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS), held in Baltimore, failed to lower U.S. somatic cell count (SCC) limits to 400,000 is an understatement.
But NCIMS delegates, on an anonymous vote of 25 for, 26 against, knew better. Publicly, the opposing delegates hid behind the argument that the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance is a milk safety document, and not a milk marketing document nor a milk quality document. Privately, many of the opposing regulators feared political backlash from non-compliant producers and the politicians they then complained to.
The “PMO as milk safety document only” argument is vacuous on its face. NCIMS had its inception following World War II, and it came about precisely because of marketing issues. At the time, individual states were using dairy regulations to impede interstate milk movements, using state regulations to prevent milk or dairy products produced in one state from being marketed in another. In other words, the very inception of NCIMS was to facilitate marketing and it did so through uniform.
What’s different today, of course, is that dairy markets are no longer simply interstate, but global. Standards set in Europe or New Zealand or China can impede markets here, just as standards used 65 years ago impeded trade between states.
The milk safety argument also has holes as big as a screen door after the cat’s jumped through it. The Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) states: “[Milk house] screen doors shall open outward.” If there is scientific evidence that the directional swing of screen door improves milk safety, I’d like to see it. No, it’s just common sense: A screen door opening outward will result in fewer flies entering the milk room. It’s one of those “duh” moments, right?
The PMO also requires 10-foot candles of light (110 lux) in conventional stall barns. To meet the standard, a 100-watt bulb for every three stanchions is required. Again, is there research to prove that 10-foot candles provide enough light to ensure a black teat-end is properly cleaned? I doubt it. But it’s common sense.
The directional swing of screen doors and the amount of light required in stall barns mitigate the risk to milk safety from more flies and dirty teat ends. That’s exactly what lowering SCC limits do.
We know—based on actual research—that at 750,000 cells/ml, approximately 25% of mammary quarters are sub-clinically infected with mastitis organisms. At 400,000 cells/ml, 12.5% of quarters in the herd are sub-clinical.
Subclinical mastitis infections can cascade into clinical cases of mastitis, increased treatment with antibiotics and increased risk of antibiotic residues. Lowering the SCC limit reduces that risk, I would argue, even more so than using 100-watt light bulbs or out-swinging screen doors.
Lowering the SCC limit to 400,000 is one of those “duh,” common sense, no-brainer issues. It’s unfortunate only 25 NCIMS delegates understood what the PMO is really all about, and had the courage to vote that way last week in Baltimore. Shame on the other 26 nameless, spineless bureaucrats--more in fear for their jobs than in doing the right thing.