Decreasing Somatic Cell Count in Dairy Cattle

Forum: Reducing Somatic Cell Count in Dairy Cattle

Published on: 02/27/2012
Author/s : Dr. Michael Looper (University of Arkansas)
Somatic cell count (SCC) is the total number of cells per milliliter in milk. Primarily, SCC is composed of leukocytes, or white blood cells, that are produced by the cow´s immune system to fight an inflammation in the mammary gland, or mastitis. Since leukocytes in the udder increase as the inflammation worsens, SCC provides an indication of the degree of mastitis in an individual cow ...
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Dr.Thirumeignanam, D., Dr.Thirumeignanam, D.,
PhD in Animal Nutrition
February 28, 2012

 interesting article about Decreasing Somatic Cell Count in Dairy Cattle

"Prevention Through Nutrition 

 A balanced ration with proper amounts of minerals and vitamins improves the ability of a dairy cattle to ward off bacterial challenges. Recent research does show selenium and vitamin E are related to healthy tissue in the mammary gland." 


----Minerals and vitamins can improve the immunity & reduce the pathogens load subsequently indication of less SCC in milk. 


Well written article and congrats!! 

Thanks and regards 


Jasmer Singh Jasmer Singh
February 28, 2012

Dr Micheal
The objective of the article is good and well explained to get maximum benefit out of milk production units. However, the modus operandi of rising SCC in milk is of great concern and needs some more explaination as to why this rise occurs and degrades the quality of milk? First of all we should know why the influx of leukocytes into milk is triggred. I would like to unravel the situation of this mechanism breifly as below:

During lactation the tight junctions between blood and milk remain closed thus there is no migration of constituents of milk and blood from either side. The normal pH of milk is ~6.50 and that of blood is 7.40 in dairy animals(cow and buffalo). The normal pH of milk in udder is maintained by Citrate through its buffering effect by equiliberating the Ca2+ and H+ throughout lactation. The other function of citrate in udder is sequestration of Ca++ which prevents its clumping and preserves the fluidity of milk. Whenever there is any disturbance in the synthesis of citrate in the udder the whole system goes haywire and calcium forms flakes which behave like Lime and injures the secretory epithelium. Due to injury thus inflicted by calcium there is swelling of the sorrounding areas of the udder resulting in leaky tight junctions. This leakage prompts the exchange of ions as Na, K, Cl, Hco3, Ctrate etc., between milk and blood bringing the pH of milk equal to that of blood i.e., alkaline(7.20 or even higher). The lesion in the udder created by calcium and alkaline pH of milk provides most conducive environments for the estabilishment of environmental organisms setting-up infetioous mastitis. Thereafter, the body defense is triggered driving inflammatory cells to the site of infection through compromised leaky tight junctions and an explosive inflammatory reaction ensues with involvement of immunological events. This whole mechanism occurs very fast culminating into varying degrees of mastitis which manifest as high SCC in milk. The other biomarkers of this episode are high milk pH with relative lowered cocentration of Citrate along with other clinical signs of Mastitis.
We have cured such cases of mastitis in cows and buffaloes effectively with the replenishment of Citrate deficiency by administering tri-Sodium citrate orally or I/V(For details See our article " Pathobiology, etiology and treatment of mastatis in buffalo by KS Dhillon and Jasmer Singh in Technical articles of the basis of our research and by many others on this subject some Pharmaceuticals have marketed their products with tri-Sodium citrate as the main ingredient for the prevention and treatment of mastitis in dairy animals and currently being used most succesfuly in the field.

KS Dhillon and Jasmer Singh (Rtd. Profs. PAU Ludhiana).

Aniruddha A. Digraskar Aniruddha A. Digraskar
Technical Marketing Manager
February 29, 2012
Dear Dr Michael,
Its an economic measure to reduce SCC. Vit E and Selenium will improve udder efficiency and also boost immunity of an animal.
Ibrahim Ibrahim
Veterinary Doctor
March 28, 2012

are there any advantage mastitis vaccine program about reducing scc in dairy cattle?

Ahmed Hassouna Ahmed Hassouna
Veterinary Doctor
October 31, 2012

Also applied CMT test and separation the high somatic cell count in separation pen in dairy farm and give milk order more than 3times

Diaa Eldien Diaa Eldien
Specialist in Animal Nutrition
October 31, 2012

Separation high scc cows in the last yard and milking 6 times per day will improve the udder and decrease infection. But we must wash the equipment after milking to avoid infection.

Peter James Lester Peter James Lester
Animal Nutritionist
October 31, 2012
I have dramatically reduced SCC's by balancing the animal’s electrolyte intake. As calcium controls the contraction phase of all muscles and potassium controls the relaxation phase (systolic and diastolic functions) we have drastically reduced infection by establishing a balance between P – Ca – Mg – K and Na ratios. This coupled with balancing the animal protein energy intake and all other prerequisites pertaining to animal health has resulted in a 77.8 percent reduction in rumen ammonia and a 100 percent increase in weight gains in lambs.
I have developed a feed amalgamation computer program which amalgamates feeds in the ratios fed, then makes one feed out of tem and compares the result with NRC standards for the animal selected and provides a recipe to balance all levels. Using this program in conjunction with our soil analysis we have been able to attain a 58 percent increase in milk yield in one year and reduced SCC’s by over 98 percent.
This program is available for purchase by contacting AgFeed Systems 4 Victoria Street Waipawa 4210 New Zealand.
Sharma Madan Lal Sharma Madan Lal
B.V.Sc & AH
October 31, 2012
Thanks to all for bringing awareness about SCC. Most important part which is responsible for altering the SCC , is the blood pH. Addition of citrates in feed will control the pH during the supplementing phase of citrate but once we withdraw citrate, pH again start altering. Other significant factor which plays important role in maintaining the blood pH is Ruminal pH. Constantly we must be vigilant on pH. Addition of yeast and oligosacchrides could support in stabilizing the Ruminal pH. Grain and oil feeding could be one of the cause of creating acidic media in Rumen. Grains and oil feeding is primarily meant to supply the energy. This I feel is the most neglected area in livestock industry. Let rumen work what is supposed to do i.e degradation of fibre and cellulose disintegration and thus production of VFA in right proportions. Could there be any alternative to supplement the energy without affecting the Rumen functions. Rumen protected fat can support the long term objectives, Citrates for immediate control measures can benefit the ruminants. Again this is to be determined that how much traditionally fed grains could be replaced by rumen protected fats ?
Dr. Brijesh Gupta Dr. Brijesh Gupta
Bachelor Of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry
November 1, 2012

Thanks for bringing very pertinent topic, in my opinion for comprehensive approach in the management of Subclinical (increased SCC) and Clinical Mastitis, we should correct the Milk pH, enhance the udder Immunity and antioxidant level. All these 3 actions are present in Mammidium a product from Intas Pharmaceuticals Limited for the comprehensive management of Subclinical and Clinical Mastitis

Dr. Brijesh Gupta

November 1, 2012

Thanks very good article!!!

Reducing SSC in dairy animal is very important

Addition of MOS and Protected fat

Dairy cows fed MOS had better immune protection against rotavirus and were able to pass some of this protection on to their calves.The transfer of immunity from the cow to the calves is critical in order to protect the calf from many different diseases.
Mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS) are widely used in animal feed to encourage gastrointestinal health and performance. They are normally obtained from the yeast cell walls of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Some brand names are: CitriStim ADM
Yeast Cell Walls
The intracellular components of the yeast cell are known as yeast extract. The yeast cell wall is the portion remaining after the inner contents of the yeast cell have been removed. The yeast cell wall contains oligosaccharides, which are complex carbohydrates. Yeast cell wall products consist of two major active components:
Mannan Oligosaccharides
Beta glucans
The mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) component of the cell wall are considered a type of carbohydrate that may account for benefits observed when livestock are fed yeast products. Thousands of tons of yeast products are added to commercial animal diets annually. For more than 25 years, it has been known that certain carbohydrates, specifically mannose and its analogues, can influence the ability of certain microbes to colonize the gut.
Yeast mannans have been shown to influence the population of pathogenic bacteria by lowering their numbers.
After these pathogens have attached to the yeast mannen they are then excreted from the animal.This process then keep the pathogens from causing illness in the host animal. Using MOS in an animal’s life when they are highly stressed results in improved gain and better health. These times include shortly after birth, during weaning, and breeding.
Studies by Salit and Gotschlich (1977) demonstrated that D-mannose, yeast mannan, and alpha-methyl-D-mannoside have the ability to interfere with E. coli binding, while other common carbohydrates had little effect. From this work, the most important point to consider is that yeast mannan is a good inhibitor of E. coli binding. This means yeast mannan can be beneficial because it prevents E. coli from binding to the gut wall and causing damage.
Beta Glucans Whole yeast and ß-glucan may modulate systemic immunity Improvement in general immune parameters Heightened vaccine responses

Indications of better immune response as manifested by lower somatic cell count in lactating dairy cattle
Bypass Protected Fat is a concentrated source of energy. This does not interfere with the rumen function, as the product is protected against rumen degradation. Calcium protects the fatty acids against breakdown in the rumen and they pass intact to the abomasum.
Here the high acidic conditions dissolve the calcium and release the fatty acids so they can be digested with maximum efficiency.

Fats and oils typically have the highest Gross Energy (GE) values of any feedstuff. However, for a variety of reasons, liquid oils and hard fats provide a considerably lower level of energy for milk production than By Pass Protected Fat.
Liquid oils have the most gross energy of all feedstuffs, but a large proportion of this can be wasted if rumen fermentation is compromised by the unprotected fats or oils (and the more you feed the worse this gets).
Hard fats (hydrogenated fat prills and fat flakes) have reduced digestibility, particularly in a grass, or grass silage based ration.
By Pass Protected Fat is a highly digestible at all feeding level.
Bypass Protected Fat will get your fresh calvers back into positive energy balance quickly since it is digested with high efficiency and completely available for the body functions and production.

The Problem of Achieving Positive Energy Balance
The best way to get more energy into the cattle is to improve the energy density of your feed. Trying to achieve this by feeding high levels of cereals and conventional fats can lead to other problems.
Excess cereals will upset rumen function leading to acidosis, loss of appetite and indigestion.
Conventional fats supply energy 3 times than that of cereals, but there are limitations to use fats at high levels in dairy feeds. That's mainly because conventional fats are in liquid form which coat the bacteria and feed in the rumen. This hampers bacterial action / degradation. So the fibre degradation is again reduced, which means your valuable home grown forage will not be utilized efficiently.

Sharma Madan Lal Sharma Madan Lal
B.V.Sc & AH
November 1, 2012
Thanks Dr. Ahirish for elaborated details on MOS and Ca salts of Rumen protected fats. Can you please further highlight on amount of these fats to used so as to reduce grains to minimal level. I strongly feel that once rumen pH is mormalized than blood ph too will remain within norms thereby maintaining the required ph in udder to keep scc in control.
Once again thanks for nice write up.
November 1, 2012

We can add 2% of By Pass fat in feed formulation, and for individual animals its depend on milk yield as if
up to 10 liters 200gm/day, 15 liters 300gm/day, above 15liter 400gm/day in two divided dose.
Viswanatha Reddy V N Viswanatha Reddy V N
Veterinary Doctor
November 1, 2012

This is with reference to Peter James Lester comment:

The balance of electrolytes is main componant, conjugated with protein and energy requirement to reduce SSC. When a group of animals are subjected we have to group animals on their growth (in first calvers), production and reproduction status. All nutrients have to come in to feed or fodder through soil. We suppliment to few animals Vitamin E and Selenium or bypass fat and get good results (experimentally not possible to include large number of animals). How much it costs per animal? We have to adopt for all stages of milking animals and looking in to the economics of an agricultural farmer who maintains 1 to 4 animals (he is the major contributor for milk production in India) our purpose gets defeated as he says it is not economical and the buyer is not accepting milk on SSC basis. Our knowledge we will be of use for future generations when a buyer demands for the quality milk towards that we do research, keeping in mind the health of the animal.

Our dairy farmers are not getting analysis of soil, feed stuffs and fodders (their composition may vary from season to season). As Dr. Peter James Lester said by adopting a feed amalgamation computer program, and carry out our experiments and the resluts are conveyed from lab to land we will be helping an average dairy farmer of India.

It is a request to Dr.Peter James Lester to inform the cost of the program he has developed so that we can inform the interested large dairy farmers, sheep farmers, veterinary colleges, Livestock research institutions in India for future course of action.
V.N.Viswanatha reddy,
Former Professor of Animal Reproduction,
Veterinary college, Bangalore, INDIA

Praful Kumar Praful Kumar
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
November 2, 2012

Excellent article with comprehensive analysis. we have tried a different approach to reduce somatic cell count in milk during advance subclinical / clinical mastitis. We know that conventional treatment using systemic and intra-mammary antibiotics have some limitations. like risk of antibiotic residues and withdrawal period. We have used therapy that activates and strengthens "Natural Defense Mechanism" of the udder system using Non-antibiotic polyherbal gel "Mastilep" with Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, Antimicrobial actions with Boosting of local immunity. Recently 5 dairy cow wereTested using this polyherbal gel just by two times topical application on the udder. they after 5 days report came that stiffness and congelation (+++) became very normal. After few days when they cheked the Somatic Cell count it was 1.4 X 10^5 where as earlier it was more than 6X 10^5. Please note that in Japan milk having less than 3X10^5 SCC will fetch premium price where as farmers have to give penalty when SCC is more than 3.

James Niaill Wright James Niaill Wright
Dairy producer
November 3, 2012

J.N. Wright
Livestock Specialist
Sultanate Of Oman

There is many more other contributory causes to high somatic counts in lactating dairy animals, Days in Milk or late lactation cows can be quite significant causes of high somatic cell counts in herds where reproduction may be an issue, as is heat stress and even dairy breed. The equilibrium with in the lactating animals mineral balance is an interesting point, as is the part played by citrate in milk consistency and regulating Somatic Cell Counts. Obviously in cases where Somatic Cell Counts are of concern one needs to establish if there is is not a sub clinical problem with in the herd. California Milk Tests for screening animals is ideal for isolating individual high somatic count animals then culturing these animals milk samples to identify pathogens is a method we use on our jersey herd when raw milk samples are a concern.

Rajesh Singh Pundir Rajesh Singh Pundir
Dairy Manager
November 6, 2012

Dear Sir,
Can you please suggest me a SCC testing machine & its source for our 25 cows dairy.
Executive to Chairman
Sitamarhi Model Dairy Cattle
Uttar Pradesh, INDIA

Jasmer Singh Jasmer Singh
November 6, 2012

The increase in SCC of milk is directly responsible for the increase in the pH of milk in the udder ( normal pH of udder milk is ~6.5 while that of mastitic milk usually ranges from 7.0-9.0). The modus operandi of SCC has already been explained in our article  Pathobiology, etiology and treatment of mastitis in Administration of tri-Sodium citrate @ 30gm daily orally in water or a 5% sterille solution of this salt in normal saline I/V clears the infection from the udder and the SCC is lowered automatically. This happens due to the equiliberation of the Ca++ and H+ in the udder due to citrate administeration which regulates the normal pH (~6.5) of udder and scavenges off the infectious agents due to acidic medium.

Therefore, always check the pH of udder milk as a routine to monitor the SCC and proceeed for its control. The pH can be easily and economocally checked on the spot by graded pH papers or by a simple pen-pH meter. Furthermore, the Citrate content of udder milk (range 130-180 mg /100ml) should be determined regularly at times from animals at the farm and replenished whenever required. 

K S Dhillon and Jasmer Singh

Leona Sturtz Leona Sturtz
Dairy producer
November 13, 2012

How long do you treat dairy cows with tri-sodium catrate and where can this be purchased?

Jasmer Singh Jasmer Singh
November 13, 2012

Hi Leona, This salt is usually available with the firms dealing with chemicals ( NOT MEDICINS AS CHEMISTS DO). This salt should be used @ 30gms dissolved in about 250ml of tap water and given once daily as a drench. Usually the recovery depends on the severity of the disease and is resolved in 3-5 days. However, in acute and or/recurrent cases of mastitis the preferable treatment is through I/V initially as 5% solution in sterille normal saline @ 50ml morning and evening and then followed by oral dose, if required, for one or two days for complete cure. I would rquest you to please contact me after giving this treatment to your animals for my information.

Regards Jasmer

Rashed Hamed Rashed Hamed
Veterinary Doctor
November 26, 2012

Thanks Dr., for these valuable information about reducing SCC in dairy cattle. But I add when we used vaccine against staph. aureus as (Lysigen) in cows and heifers can decrease the SCC because the bacteria has chronicity form in lactating cows which lead to increase SCC

Best Regards.

Dr. Rashed Hamed

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