We'll do it mandatorially for exports but not for our own consumption.

The NMC reports that the USDA-AMS finalized its “European Health Certification Program” requiring a somatic cell count (SCC) limit of 400,000 cells/ml based on a rolling three-month average (calculated using a geometric mean) for individual farms.

Remember that earlier last year proposals by the both the NMC and the National Milk Producers Federation were submitted to the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) recommending a reduction in the U.S. SCC regulatory limit from 750,000 to 400,000 cells/ml. Voting delegates did not approve a change in the SCC standard however, and therefore the federal limit remains at 750,000.

For exporting, however, NMC says the USDA European Health Certification Program outlines the requirements that U.S. dairy producers and processors must meet to demonstrate compliance with E.U. regulations when exporting dairy products to the 27 member countries. The major difference between the U.S. and E.U. milk quality requirements is the maximum allowable SCC limit — the federal regulatory SCC limit in the U.S. is 750,000 whereas the limit in the E.U. is 400,000. Testing of the farm-level milk supply in the U.S. will be necessary to document compliance with the stricter E.U. standard for exported products.

I think it’s too bad that the NCIMS did not lower the SCC limit, especially in light of the increase in milk quality that U.S. producers are achieving. In this issue of Bovine Veterinarian USDA-NAHMS data shows that the milk-weighted geometric mean BTSCC was 295,000 cells/ml in 1997 and was 224,000 cells/ml in 2010, representing a 24% decrease in BTSCC over that time.

The article discusses many of the key improvements that have led to the BTSCC decrease including forestripping, single-use cloths or towels, use of gloves, automatic takeoffs, housing and sand bedding to name a few.

So many of the management factors that can lead to lowered SCCs are areas in which veterinarians excel at counseling clients. Take a look at some of the specific areas of improvement in the Milk quality continues to improve article in this issue and see if your clients are doing the best they can in those areas. If not, encourage them to consider how they can improve.

The effective date for beginning the transition to the new USDA certification program was Jan. 1, 2012. All farms will be given three months to establish an initial rolling three-month mean. After March 1, 2012, all shipments of dairy products requiring an E.U. health certificate must comply with the updated certification program.

To read the full USDA Notice to the Industry, visit http://tinyurl.com/7kkdzph.