Jan. 27 2016 11:32 AM

An array of factors help this Illinois dairy farm maintain a below average somatic cell count month after month.

When it comes to milk quality, Sycamore, Ill., dairyman Bill Deutsch focuses both inside and outside the udder. With that philosophy in mind, Deutsch Dairy Farm maintains an average somatic cell count between 100,000 and 150,000, often dipping below 100,000 for several months in a row.

Deutsch, who spoke at the 2016 Dairy Summit in Freeport, Ill., is quick to state that he's "just an average kind of dairyman," but he's certainly found ways to get top-quality milk from his 150-cow Holstein and Brown Swiss herd. What strategies does he use use?

Start with clean udders. "Are udders clean when cows come to the parlor?" asks Deutsch. Bedding is a big component of this. Most of his herd is housed in a freestall barn with sawdust bedded mattresses. Older cows are housed in a bedded pack barn that is bedded every day or every other day.

Strive for clean teats, too. Deutsch employs high school students, and he stresses to them the importance of cleanliness. "I tell them I want the teat clean enough so that you could lick it like an ice cream cone," he said. "What doesn't come off ends up in my milk."

Proper stimulation. Their milking procedure starts with foaming teat dip, forestripping, foaming again, wiping with an individual paper towel, attaching the unit, milking, and then postdipping.

Good dip coverage. "We use foamers on our farm, but there are a lot of techniques you can use," he said. Deutsch is looking for a dip that gives good coverage, plus skin conditioning in winter when temperatures fall below 20°F.

Identify treated cows. "We all have treated cows," he said. "Part of milk quality is what you do with them." On his dairy, treated and dry cows are marked with duct tape, which Deutsch has found stays on cows, is readily seen by workers, and is easily cut off with scissors. He stressed that good record keeping is very important, too.

Take extra steps. Even after a cow tests clear of antibiotics, Deutsch checks her somatic cell count. It has to be below 300,000 before her milk will be put in the bulk tank. He will also pull milk samples from sick cows and have them cultured by the veterinarian to determine the most effective treatment. Twice a year, they also pull and culture a bulk tank sample.

Cool milk fast. Don't forget about milking equipment and its role in product quality. "A plate cooler is a very valuable tool on the farm, one of the most valuable for milk quality," he said.

Use your team. When the somatic cell count bounces up, Deutsch says it is his job to figure out what went wrong, and sometimes that takes outside assistance. "Work with all other people that come on farm, from the milk plant field guy to the dairy supply route man to your veterinarian," he said.
Abby blog footerThe author is an associate editor and covers animal health, dairy housing and equipment, and nutrient management. She grew up on a dairy farm near Plymouth, Wis., and previously served as a University of Wisconsin agricultural extension agent. She received a master's degree from North Carolina State University and a bachelor's from University of Wisconsin-Madison.