Two dairy farms in Fillmore County are on the annual list of top Minnesota dairy herds with low somatic cell counts (SCC) released by Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson this month in honor of June Dairy Month.

Somatic cell count is a key indicator of milk quality – a lower SCC count is better for cheese production and a longer shelf life. This year, 111 dairy farms are being recognized for superior herd management skills by achieving an average under 100,000 SCC.  

The two in Fillmore County are SHIR-MAN Holsteins II, of Fountain, which distributes to Associated Milk Producers, Inc., and Randall Grabau, of Spring Valley, who uses Land O’ Lakes – Melrose.

For more than a decade Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and University of Minnesota dairy experts have been working with the state’s dairy farmers to lower somatic cell counts. When the initiative began in 2003, the 100 herds honored that year included those with SCC averages as high as 144,000, compared to the goal of obtaining a SCC under 100,000.

Although somatic cells occur naturally and are not a food safety concern, dairy farmers monitor them because processors will pay a premium for milk with low counts. A farmer whose herd has a very low count can receive significantly more per hundredweight compared to a farmer whose herd average is high.

The farmers who make the list receive a certificate of congratulations signed by Commissioner Frederickson.

The SCC list of Minnesota dairy farms is online at www.mda.state.mn.us/lowscc2015.