Somatic cell count (SCC) limits are a key component of national and international regulation for milk quality. As yet, very limited work has been published on SCC regulatory standards, including on the effect of different approaches to SCC data adjustment and interpretation. This study examines the effect of SCC data adjustment and interpretation, as outlined in current European Union (EU) legislation, on herd eligibility to supply raw milk for processing of dairy products for human consumption, using Irish data for illustration. The study used Irish milk-recording data as a proxy for bulk tank SCC (BTSCC) data, to calculate an unadjusted monthly SCC value for each herd during each month of participation. Subsequently, 4 data adjustments were applied, as outlined in EU and national legislation: seasonal adjustment; 3-mo rolling geometric average, without accounting for a break in the supply; 3-mo rolling geometric average, after accounting for a break in the supply; and seasonal adjustment and 3-mo rolling geometric average combined, after accounting for a break in the supply. Analyses were conducted to examine the effect, during the period from 2004 to 2010, of data adjustment on the percentage of herds with herd SCC >400,000 cells/mL. In all, 4 interpretation scenarios, incorporating different data adjustment combinations, were used to estimate herd eligibility (compliant, under warning, or suspended, as defined by legislation) to supply raw milk for processing. The 4 methods of data adjustment each led to a sizable reduction (6.7, 5.0, 5.3, and 11.1 percentage points, respectively, compared with the unadjusted data) in the percentage of herds exceeding a herd SCC of 400,000 cells/mL. Herd eligibility varied by interpretation scenarios, in particular those incorporating seasonal adjustment. The study provides new perspectives on the effect of data adjustment on herd SCC and of interpretation scenarios on herd eligibility. The results provide an illustrative, rather than definitive, picture of this effect, as national authorities use BTSCC data when determining herd eligibility, whereas this study was conducted using milk-recording data as a proxy. Some aspects of the primary EU legislation are unclear, which may lead to differences in interpretation and application. The potential impact of data adjustment and milk purchaser pricing on farm-level mastitis control in Ireland is considered.
University College Dublin ->