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Somatic cell count limit may curb antibiotic residue in milk

Scientists of the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) have set standard limits of somatic cell counts (SCC) in milk of indigenous cattle and Murrah buffalo to monitor the prevalence of sub-clinical mastitis in dairy herds, quality of raw milk and hygienic conditions at farms.

They are trying to set up a reference value of milk cells in other animals across the country so that the milk products can meet international standards. “Setting up of legal limit for SCC in milk will reduce antibiotics residues in milk as well as will help in reducing udder infection and produce grade-A milk. It will also help in growth of both quality and quantity of milk leading to increase in farmers’ income and also improve cow comfort and welfare,” claimed NDRI Director Dr MS Chauhan.

Dr Chauhan said the research would help in enhancing the export quality of milk and milk products. “With 189 million metric tonne of milk production annually, India is leading the world, but our milk export is less than 10 per cent.

All the developed countries such as the US, European Union and others use SCC in milk for quality parameter and paying more premiums for the milk having low somatic cell counts, while in India, milk quality and pricing are still based on the fat percentage in milk. This research will help in enhancing the milk quality,” he said. After a research of more than 10 years, Dr Ajay Dang, principal scientist, lactation and immunophysiology laboratory, NDRI, along with his team members consisting of scientists and students set the SCC limits up to 1 lakh/ML in Murrah buffalo milk and 1-1.5 lakh/ML in ingenious cattle milk, which are gold value in these animals.

“We conducted the research on more than 500 indigenous cattle and Murrah buffalo. We isolated and cultured milk cells from the udder gland in order to develop cell count sensors for these animals. Any type of stress to the animals increases the SCC in milk. We consider SCC above 2 lakh in milk may indicate sub-clinical mastitis, poor milk quality and products,” said Dr Dang.

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