The United States Department of Agriculture has granted 435 derogations to dairy farmers who have three-month somatic cell count (SCC) averages above 400,000 cells/ml.
The derogations are required to allow these farmers to continue to sell milk to processors in order to meet the requirements for European Union export certification. On August 1, USDA had granted just 171 derogations.
The 435 derogations is still not the final number, says Ken Vorgert, Chief of USDA’s Dairy Grading Branch. The number will climb since USDA has still not issued rulings on bulk derogations submitted by a number of large cooperatives.
“Some of the large cooperatives, such as Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’Lakes and others, submitted their derogation applications in bulk (defined as more than 100),” says Vorgert. “We should have rulings on those shortly.”
But he doesn’t expect the number to climb into five digits. “We won’t see 15% to 20% of farms needing derogations. It will be more like 5%, is my guess,” he says.
Many dairy farms have been making substantial progress on reducing their SCC averages, he says. “A lot of these farms, if they’re willing to work at it, are trending down in their averages, Vorgert says.
He’s also denied several requests for derogations because the farms have been on the cusp of the three-month 400,000 SCC average. “We didn’t want to grant a derogation to these farms in case they might actually need one later,” he says.