Milking parlor.
July 2, 2020

Midwest SCCs Continue to Tick Down

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

Somatic cell counts in the Upper Midwest Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) continued to tick down in 2019, averaging 179,000 cell/mL. That’s a drop of 3,000 cell/mL from 2018, and a drop of 78,000 cell/mL over the past decade.

Wisconsin had the lowest cell count in the Upper Midwest order, averaging 174,000 cells/mL last year, according to a report written by Corey Freije, an economist with the Upper Midwest FMMO. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula had the highest, at 229,000 cell/mL.

Cell counts have been trending steadily downward since the European Union (EU) set world standards at 400,000 cell/mL back in 2009. Though the U.S. standard remains at 750,000 cells/mL, the U.S. cannot export dairy products or ingredients with milk produced with cell counts above the EU standard.

The report also shows that the largest herds have the lowest cell counts, averaging just 156,000 cells/mL. These herds market more than 5 million pounds of milk per month. The smallest herds, those marketing less than 50,000 pounds per month, had average cell counts of 292,000 cells/mL. But these herds market less than 2 percent of the milk in the Upper Midwest.

Freiji also broke down the component value of milk marketed in the Upper Midwest in 2019, noting those components totaled up to $18.66/cwt. Butterfat accounted for 53.2% of the value; protein, 40.3%, other solids, 5.7% and SCCs, 0.8%.

Small herds had some of the higher milk prices based on components. These herds tend to have higher butterfat and protein levels in the milk they market, which helped them achieve an average component price level of $18.63/cwt in 2019. This is about 15₵/cwt higher than larger herds.

The largest of herds, those marketing more than 2.5 million pounds of milk per month, did have highest component values in the study. Herds marketing 2.5 and up to 5 million pounds averaged $18.69/cwt and herds marketing 5 million pounds or more averaged $19.22/cwt. This might be due to a combination of having the lowest somatic cell counts and rations more finely balanced to achieve higher component levels.

You can read the complete report here.