Lowering the somatic cell count (SCC) limit has received a lot of press lately, but reducing SCC has many benefits for dairy producers regardless of regulations. Higher premiums and improved cow health are just a few of the advantages. So, what are some of the best ways to reach a lower SCC? "Lowering herd SCC requires a systematic approach and the use of good herd records, including monthly individual cow SCC testing, bulk tank and individual cow culturing, and excellent on-farm observations," said Jeff Reneau, D.V.M., from the University of Minnesota at the recent Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference. Dr. Reneau provided not only insight on ways to lower SCC, but offered tools to help farmers identify problems. A milk quality self-assessment test, click here, asks questions about various management practices from bedding type and condition to udder preparation. After finishing the test, a score is given showing how your farm measures up on milk quality. Also available from the University of Minnesota Extension is a spreadsheet that uses average bulk tank SCC values and ranges from one pickup to the next to estimate the probability your bulk tank SCC will hit the 400,000 mark. It is quite possible that, even if the average bulk tank SCC on farm is under 200,000 the variation from pickup to pickup is enough for that bulk tank SCC to go over 400,000 about one-third of the time.