The milk-weighted geometric mean of bulk tank somatic cell counts (SCCs) was 227,000 cells/ml in 2009 in the four Federal Milk Marketing Order areas in the central U.S. That’s according to data released by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service this summer.
The data includes bulk tank SCCs from the Central, Mideast, Southwest and Upper Midwest areas. These areas regulate milk from 32,854 producers in 34 states and account for nearly half of U.S. milk production.
The 227,000 SCC average caps a trend of continual improvement over the previous years of 2004 through 2008 (see chart).
The milk-weighted average is based on milk volume. When the average is calculated by producer, it creeps up to 277,000. But that average is also down compared to the previous five years.
The U.S. industry is under pressure to lower all milk below 400,000 cells/ml to meet European Union export certification requirements. In 2009, the data shows, 89% of the milk would have met that goal on a monthly basis.
But that’s where the good news ends: Only 50% of the producers shipped milk below 400,000 cells/ml in all months of 2009. Keep in mind, however, that the 400,000 cells/ml requirement is based on a three-month rolling average. So it’s likely some higher percentage of producer milk would qualify for export.