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More EU SCC Requirements Details

Jeff Reneau

Published in Dairy Star June 4, 2010

In my article entitled "The Fog of SCC Limits" published in the May 22nd edition of Dairy Star, I mentioned that the lowering of the SCC requirement to 400,000 for most Midwest processors was imminent and that we needed to gear up to meet the challenge. As noted in that article, the European Union (EU) has ruled that every dairy farm selling milk to processors who export dairy products to them must have an average 3-month rolling geometric mean below this requirement beginning October 1, 2010. Since then, a few more details have become clear, although there is still some uncertainty. Here is what we know to date:

What is the geometric mean and how is it calculated?
The calculation is made by taking the cube root of the product of three monthly SCC, whereas in the US, the arithmetic mean calculation is normally used. The geometric mean calculation has the advantage of being a lower number and reduces the influence of the occasional high SCC spike. For example, in Table 1, I've given a comparison of the geometric mean calculation and the arithmetic mean.

Table 1. Calculation of SCC Monthly Average Geometric Mean
Actual SCC Average 3-month Rolling
Geometric Mean
Average 3-month Rolling
Arithmetic Mean
Month 1 - 400,000    
Month 2 - 350,000    
Month 3 - 300,000 347,000 for Month 3 350,000
Month 4 - 600,000 397,000 for Month 4 416,000
Month 5 - 400,000 416,000 for Month 5 433,000
Month 6 - 450,000 476,000 for Month 6 483,000

Still undecided is how the monthly SCC will be determined. Fewer bulk tank SCC tests are done (bimonthly) in the EU than in the Upper Midwest where SCC tests are run on every pickup. Therefore, using the single "official" SCC test or some random selection of a single bulk tank SCC test done during any month would be comparable to what is done in the EU. It is likely that this approach will be used.

How will the SCC limit compliance be handled?
In the EU, this is a regulatory issue since their legal SCC limit is 400,000, leaving compliance up to regulatory agencies. In the US, at least at this time, the 400,000 SCC compliance is a market access issue and will be left to processors. In either case, a three-month geometric mean of greater than 400,000 will trigger disciplinary action. In the EU, a non-compliant producer cannot market their milk until they are reinstated after the submission of a qualifying milk quality test. It is thought that the US will have a similar reinstatement process.

How firm is the stated October 1, 2010, deadline?
It now appears that a January 1, 2011, deadline is now more realistic. This gives some producers more time to get their SCC under control.

Have we forgotten why we really produce low SCC milk in the first place?
For most Minnesota producers, the new SCC requirement is a non-issue. But, producing high quality milk is an important economic issue for all producers. I've carried an old faded plastic card in my wallet for 26 years that has a table relating SCC with production losses (see Table 2). First published by Nelson Philpot in 1984, the data was based on average annual per cow milk production of 14,000 to 15,000 pounds. Can any dairy today afford to lose 4.5+ lbs/cow/day plus a quality premium to boot?

Table 2. SCC as They Relate to Milk Production Losses (DHIA & Philpot 1984)
SCC Linear
Somatic Cell Count Range SCC Midpoint Milk Loss
0 0 - 17,000 12,500 0
1 18,000 - 34,000 25,000 0
2 35,000 - 70,000 50,000 0
3 71,000 - 140,000 100,000 1.5
4 141,000 - 282,000 200,000 3
5 283,000 - 565,000 400,000 4.5
6 566,000 - 1,130,000 800,000 6

What are the future market implications?
I don't have a crystal ball, but it is certain that whether by October 1st this year or by January 1st of next year, the SCC requirements will be coming down. It's the reality of working in a global market where our processors need to take advantage of exporting opportunities. As a result, all of our dairies will need to meet world quality standards.

What should we do?
It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work! There is nothing magic about producing low SCC high quality milk. Every farm can consistently maintain a SCC well under 400,000 and should have 200,000 as their goal. The University of Minnesota Dairy Team is teaming up with Minnesota dairy producers, suppliers, veterinarians and processor colleagues as well as Minnesota DHI to get the state's SCC down. Milk Quality Field Days will be held across the state this summer. These will be enjoyable information-packed events on dairies that have excelled in producing low SCC milk. Join us at any of the events listed below. Additional details will be published in Dairy Star and posted on our University of Minnesota Dairy Extension website at

July 6, 10:30am-1:00pm
Registration at 10:00 (meal included)
Roseview Dairy
14886 255th Ave, Sleepy Eye, MN
(Brown County)
July 28, 10:30am-1:00pm
Registration at 10:00 (meal included)
Elm Lane Holsteins
394 90th Ave, Pipestone, MN
(Pipestone County)
July 7, 1:00-3:15pm
Registration at 12:45
David Buck Farm
4505 County 9 Blvd, Dennison, MN
(Goodhue County)
August 3, 1:00-3:15pm
Registration at 12:30
Jay & Marie Noska Dairy
20891 County Rd 14, Browerville, MN
(Todd County)
July 21, 9:30am-12:30pm
Registration at 9:15
Rolling Ridge Acres Dairy
22385 Rolling Ridge Dr, Lewiston, MN
(Winona County)
August 12, 12:30-3:00pm
Registration at 12:00
Funks Midway Dairy
32952 330th St, Melrose, MN
(Stearns County)
July 27, 10:00am-12:00pm
Registration at 9:30
Wagner Dairy
65507 295th St, Litchfield, MN
(Meeker County)
August 19, 10:30 am-1:00pm
Registration at 10:00 (meal included)
Sandhill Dairy
45898 County Rd 60, Perham, MN
(Otter Tail County)
July 28, 9:30 am-12:00pm
Registration at 9:15
Udder Valley Dairy
21741 County Rd 4, Spring Grove, MN
(Houston County)
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