Roughly 10 percent of Upper Midwest dairy farms currently don’t meet the 400,000 cells/ml somatic cell count level that will be required to comply with European Union dairy export certification August 1.
But these farms typically are smaller dairies, and account for four percent or less of milk production, according to officials from Associated Milk Producers, Inc., Dairy Farmers of America, and First District Association. The reps reported this news at the Minnesota Dairy Leaders Roundtable semi-annual meeting held today.
All farms must have a SCC level of less than 400,000 cells/ml based on a three-month geometric mean. Grade B farms must have bacteria counts below 100,000 cells/ml based on a two-month geometric mean. All dairy handlers were required to report farms that currently do not meet the standards to the United States Department of Agriculture in March for bacteria counts and in April for SCCs.
The vast majority of the farms above 400,000 have somatic cell counts between 400,000 and 500,000. The deadline for meeting the standards is August 1. As a result, the three-month geometric mean will be based on SCC tests done in May, June and July. Farms not in compliance will have to request a 12-month derogation (or exemption) from USDA in order to continue to ship milk.
Co-op officials don’t expect many, if any, farms to go out of business as a result of non-compliance since they expect USDA will readily grant derogations. “Farmers will be able to get the derogations, but the program is an added cost for milk handlers,” says Clint Fall, CEO of First District Association.
He notes that processors have had to re-program computers to calculate the two- and three-month geometric means, set up notification procedures and also work with other handlers as they swap milk between plants for transportation and plant efficiencies. “It has created a maze of administrative hassle,” says Fall.
Publicity surrounding the program has gotten farmers’ attention. “Quality premium payments to our members have doubled since January as word of the program has spread and farms worked to improve milk quality,” says Ron Collet with Dairy Farmers of America.
Fall notes that the EU export certification requirements would have been mute if the National Conference on Interstate Shipments would have passed a national 400,000 SCC limit last year. That vote failed by one.
But he and other officials expect NCIMS will revisit the issue in 2013. And they expect the national limit to be lowered from 750,000 cells/ml to 400,000 cells/ml, perhaps over several years.
“But don’t expect 400,000 as the final bottom line,” says Fall. “We already have customers that are requesting milk with less than 250,000 SCC. And one eastern Wisconsin bottler is requesting every day pick-up from the farm to ensure freshness.”
MDLR Marks 20th Anniversary
The Minnesota Dairy Leader Roundtable (MDLR) was established in 1992 to stem the loss of dairy farms, cows and production from the state. Back then, Minnesota boasted 660,000 cows producing 9.854 billion lb. of milk annually. The average cow produced just under 15,000 lb./year. Minnesota produced 6.5% of the nation’s milk.
Today, Minnesota has 465,000 cows producing 8.908 billion lb. of milk annually. Average milk per cow is just over 19,000 lb., and the state produces 4.9% of the nation’s milk. The state currently has 4,189 dairy farms.