Milk quality enthusiasts gather in Idaho for NMC Regional Meeting

Evolutionary Biologist Eric Treeter of Udder Health Systems (right) explains PCR Mycoplasma species differentiation services to Roger Thomson of MQ-IQ Consulting (left).

Idaho is the U.S. dairy industry’s third largest milk-producing state and one of only a few U.S. states that requires herds to ship milk with a somatic cell count (SCC) of less than 400,000 cells/ml.Thus, Idaho provided a great platform for addressing quality milk production strategies and solutions at the 2017 National Mastitis Council Regional Meeting, held July 19-20, in Boise.

Dr. Kevin Anderson
Laboratory Manager Murali Gurajala of Udder Health Systems, Dr. Kevin Anderson (NMC board member) and Jacob Steiger, a Washington dairy practitioner and consultant, discuss Klebsiella pneumonia isolate grown on Udder Health Systems Specialty Selective agar plates.

Seven countries and 21 states were represented at the NMC Regional Meeting, which attracted 150 dairy processors, veterinarians, producers, suppliers, researchers, milking equipment dealers and students. In addition to the short courses and general session, the meeting offered an open house and tour of Udder Health Systems, a dairy farm tour, the C.S. Beef Packers plant tour and a reception at Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, a unique facility that features vintage tractors, slides and amphitheater.

“We showcased a variety of Northwest milk quality experts who addressed the processor’s role, milking parlor throughput, robotic milking, milk bacterial diagnostics, contagious mastitis, workforce training, animal health on both organic and conventional dairies, and the production of low SCC milk,” said Allan Britten, NMC Regional Meeting program chair. A dairy processor panel shared a brief history about States with lower SCC regulations than the United States as a whole, which is 750,000 cells/ml. Panelists agreed that more stringent milk quality standards (SCC of less than 400,000 cells/ml) would

provide greater global market access and foster improved animal health and welfare.

Juan Rodrigo Pedraza, Zoetis managing veterinarian dairy technical services, told attendees there’s no perfect milking procedure. “The key is to follow protocols that benefit both employees and cows. Always take into consideration walking distances for the milkers. When they are working long shifts, the amount of walking will go against job quality. At the same time, make sure timing is adequate in terms of contact time for the teat dip, prep time and prep lag time.”

To produce high quality milk, Allan Britten, the president of Udder Health Systems, said one of the most important steps is to control contagious mastitis and adopt a “zero tolerance” attitude. “Take full advantage of proven mastitis prevention methods, such as routine teat dipping, use of individual towels for drying udders before milking, and routine preventative dry cow treatment.” He noted that the mastitis infection reservoir is the quarter or quarters of infected cows. Basically, the only way a new case can occur is if a healthy cow is exposed to milk of an infected shedder. To control mastitis, control cows carrying mastitis – by curing, segregating or culling her.

Robert Hagevoort of New Mexico State University shared some enlightening work done on workforce training. Besides showing employees “how” to carry out tasks, trainers should explain “why” tasks need to be done according to protocol. Strive for employee engagement, because engaged employees do better work and their turnover is lower.

Additionally, Hagevoort described effective training through videos. Rather than traditional classroom training, employees view videos and share comprehension after watching the video. One example is “Considering Human and Animal Safety,” which is available on line at

The National Mastitis Council 57th Annual Meeting is scheduled for Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2018, in Tucson, Arizona. Next year’s NMC Regional Meeting will be held June 20-22, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Text and photos –  JoDee Sattler