Clean udders and best practice routines for milking are some of the conditions for a a low cell count.
The cell count is evidence of the udder health. The lower the cell count, the better the udder health. The Danish Agriculture & Food Council, Cattle, aims at reducing the average cell count nationally to 150,000. As of January 1, 2019, the average cell count is 196,800. The target is established for providing consumers with the best product possible, and because good udder health results in a higher yield and thus a more efficient production – which benefits both the farmer’s bottom line and the environment.
What are cells and cell counts?
The cells in the milk consist partly of shed (dead) cells from the mammary tissue and partly of white blood cells. The udder rejecting dead cells is a completely natural and healthy process. Just like when our skin sheds cells and replaces them with new ones. This means that even milk from completely healthy cows contains a certain number of cells. Therefore, it is not possible to reach a cell count of zero.
The white blood cells are the cow’s active defense against udder infection. A cow with both hidden and acute mastitis, therefore, releases an increased number of cells in the milk.
The cell count indicates the number of cells per ml milk. The cell count in a healthy cow varies depending on the number of calvings, lactation stage, race and yield.
When the average cell count is below 200,000, the farmer gets the highest quality payment bonus from the dairy.
Impact on the milk
The cell count has no impact on the milk’s quality in terms of appearance, smell, taste or shelf life. Therefore, many countries have accepted a higher limit for the cell count than the one we have established in Denmark. However, abroad as well as in Denmark, the milk’s appearance cannot be noticeably changed. The goal of achieving the lowest cell count possible is partly for the sake of production and partly for the sake of ethics. As far as the production goes, a low cell count is an indicator of healthy animals that are doing well and perform even better. As for the ethical considerations, they are based on a wish for the cleanest possible milk from healthy cows.
If your cell count is too high
An increased cell count affects the farm’s finances on several levels. Missing out on the quality payment bonus play a role as well as the increased costs that come with deteriorated udder health. These costs include reduced yield and extra work when milking separately and treating. Therefore, it is a good idea to address this problem.
Watch the online course about milk quality
Update your knowledge on how to work with the cattle at www.landbrugsinfo.dk/workingwithcattle