As milk quality continues to tighten up and milk prices are not as favorable as they have been, cutting corners is a hot topic.  So where should your somatic cell count be?  This is a great question.  Answering a question like this effectively will take a dollar amount attached to it.  Let me share with you an article that I recently read.  It is from Mark Kirkpatric, DVM of Zoetis.

I recently examined lactation records of more than 164,000 Holstein cows on 22 diaries. I was looking for the presence of high first-test somatic cell count (SCC) or a recorded clinical mastitis case in the first 60 days in lactation. In the study, cows with a SCC greater than 200,000 cells/mL at the first DHI test were classified as subclinical mastitis infections.

The implications of high first-test SCC are real and expensive. 

These implications include:

  • Lost milk production throughout lactation
  • Increased risk of clinical mastitis
  • Increased treatment costs and production loss
  • Risk of mastitis recurrence
  • Cost of removals from herd
  • Reduced reproductive efficiency

According to this study, losses attributed to high first-test SCC consisted of the following:

  • 1,583 pounds of lost milk production, amounting to $285 (based on $18/cwt) in lost milk yield; these losses extend through 210 days in lactation
  • 2.5 times more likely to develop a clinical case of mastitis by 60 days in milk (DIM) than the rest of the herd – not to mention the cost of treatment and production loss
  • 3 times more likely to be culled within the first 60 DIM when compared with unaffected cows
  • 17 additional days open (not pregnant) x feed costs per day 



Monitoring individual cow SCC through monthly DHI testing is an important tool for tracking early lactation udder health.
Consider these steps:

  1. Evaluating each quarter of high-SCC cows using the California Mastitis Test (CMT) [or by sending these sample in to Arizona DHIA’s microbiology department.]
  2. Treating subclinical mastitis infections with a broad spectrum mastitis therapy labeled for subclinical mastitis.
  3. Collecting milk samples from each infected quarter to help identify the bacterial organism.

Work with your veterinarian to properly manage and identify high SCC cows in your herd.
Enabling a cow to reach peak performance early in her lactation is critical to maintaining a high productive herd average.  Finding high somatic cell carrying cows is not a complicated process.  We can take milk samples from your total herd or specific pens, such as your fresh cow pens and you can have results in a couple days.  You may want to sample cows as they come fresh.
If we can help let us know!  We would love to be part of your management procedures.

Tom Blevins, Arizona DHIA
[email protected]
(602) 882-1230