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IDF bulletin on methods for determination of somatic cell count SCC in milk

In the dairy sector throughout the world, there is a desire to optimize udder health. Good udder health leads to improved animal welfare, improved production efficiency, stronger animal health, and reduction of the use of antimicrobials. Usually, when an infection occurs, milk somatic cell counts (SCC) in the udder increases. Therefore, milk SCC is used globally as an indicator of udder health and milk quality. Somatic Cell Counting is one of the most frequently performed tests worldwide, estimated at over 500.000.000 tests/year. Somatic Cell Counting is used in food legislation, payment of raw milk affects milk composition and quality, and has a major impact on farm management and breeding programs.

IDF and ICAR collaborate on developing a reference system for Somatic Cell Counting aiming at improving the equivalence of results.

Substantial achievements have been made in the world of somatic cell counting. The launch of the new primary reference material for somatic cell counting (SCC) last year is clearly a milestone in the project’s aim to create better equivalence with somatic cell counting in milk worldwide. The implementation of the material is underway.

Obtaining a reliable Somatic Cell Count with a reference method is a major challenge. The current International Standard ISO 13366-1 | IDF 148-1 on enumeration of somatic cells is a method based on direct microscopic cell counting of stained cells. The reference method derives from old techniques and could be improved with the use of newly available technologies. Over the last years, new methods for the identification of cells were developed which are less dependent on the operator (i.e., flow cytometry, improved image analyses…) and provide precise and reliable measures.

The aim of this publication is to define criteria that could be used to help mapping potential improvement and/or methods. Detailed protocols on how such methods could be used routinely for reference testing purposes will need to be developed in order to progress towards a future reference method for somatic cell counting. We trust that this new IDF Bulletin will facilitate the development of future methods. This work actually led to exciting follow-up activities bringing fundamental insights for the development of an improved reference method. Read all about it here.

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