In honor of June Dairy Month, 115 dairy farms have been recognized by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for their management efforts to produce the highest-quality milk in the state.
Dairy herds on this annual MDA list have an average somatic cell count of 100,000 cells/ml and under. SCC is a key indicator of milk quality. The lower the SCC, the better the milk is for cheese production and extending bottled milk shelf life.
“Minnesota’s dairy industry has been struggling with low milk prices for a number of years, so it’s important to recognize these farmers who have worked hard to manage their herds,” says MDA commissioner Thom Petersen. “Achieving low somatic cell count doesn’t happen overnight, and I’m pleased to award these 115 farms for their high level of excellence.”
Although somatic cells occur naturally and are not a food safety concern, dairy farmers monitor them because they can be used as a measure of the health of their cows. Processors also pay a premium for milk with low counts. A farmer whose herd has a very low count can receive a significantly higher price per hundredweight compared to a farmer whose herd average is high.
For more than 15 years, MDA and University of Minnesota dairy experts have worked 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 current goal of obtaining a SCC under 100,000.
The top 10 dairy farms with the lowest SCC are:
- Roger and Laura Primus, Todd County
- Gregory Dairy, LLC, Stearns County
- Anthony and Matt Berktold, Wabasha County
- James Hesse, Carver County
- Bruce and Jill Boettcher, Carver County
- Riverview, LLP — West Dublin, Swift County
- Peter Mark Hendrickson, Todd County
- Mitchell Mehrwerth, Benton County
- Chad Felten, Mower County
- Barkeim Farms, LLC, Winona County
The complete list of dairy farms is available online.