Canadian dairy farmers will have to meet new standards for somatic cell counts (SCCs) beginning this summer, but they appear to be ahead of the curve.
Effective Aug. 1, regulatory limits for producers will be lowered to 399,000 per millilitre from 499,000 per millilitre.
However, "the change is not going to affect most dairy producers," said David Wiens, chairman of Dairy Farmers of Manitoba.
"Producers have been working over the years to reduce their somatic cell counts and this is just another step along the way."
Plans for the new threshold date back to 2007, when provincial delegates to the annual Dairy Farmers of Canada policy conference agreed to lower the SCC threshold to below 400,000.
SCCs in Manitoba, for example, now average around 250,000 per millilitre, Wiens said.
"We are really already at this level, so why not make it official by bringing in the new standard?" he said.
The change will also bring Canadian regulations in line with those in the European Union, which in recent years moved to a threshold of 400,000 cells per millilitre and requires milk imports to meet that standard.
"We really believe that Canadians deserve dairy products that are some of the best, so we are always striving to improve our products," Wiens said.
Somatic cells are the white blood cells and epithelial cells present at low levels in milk. SCCs increase when bacteria are present in the udder and a cow produces higher white blood cell levels to fight infection.
Milk with low SCCs has a significantly reduced risk of developing rancid or "off" flavours ahead of its best-before date. High SCCs in milk are also known to affect cheese yields.
— Shannon VanRaes is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator in Winnipeg. A version of this article appeared in the May 24, 2012 issue.