Counting the Cost of Somatic Cells
The somatic (body) cells that are detected in milk are mainly white blood cells, which appear in response to infection. A low SCC is an indicator of good udder health; a high SCC is an indicator of mastitis. As SCC rises, milk yield falls: a cow can have no visual signs of mastitis, yet still have a raised SCC, which means she would be producing below her potential.
DairyNZ has developed some good tools that you can use to determine the economic cost of udder health problems (www.smartsamm.co.nz).
The graph below shows the value of the milk potential that is being lost by farms that are not meeting a benchmark for SCC of 100,000 this SCC target: for an average farm the potential loss is around $27,000 a year; for a large farm with high SCCs the loss can exceed $100,000.