13 Winona County farms among best in state
Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen today released the annual list of top Minnesota dairy herds with low somatic cell counts (SCC). Somatic cell count is a key indicator of milk quality – a lower SCC count is better for cheese production and a longer shelf life for bottled milk. In honor of June Dairy Month, 96 Minnesota dairy farms — including 13 Winona County farms — are being recognized for superior herd management skills by achieving an average SCC of under 100,000.
“I’m honored to be able to recognize these 96 dairies for their high level of excellence,” said Commissioner Petersen. “These dairy farmers work hard 365 days a year to produce high quality, wholesome dairy products for all of us to enjoy, and I thank them for their contributions to feed Minnesota and the world.”
The local farms and farmers honored are: Robert and Terri Ketchum, Valley Acres Dairy 1, Barkeim Farms LLC, D & D Dairy Small Farm, Scott and Michelle Herber, Valley Acres Dairy 2, James A. Olson, the late Russel Wirt, Heim Family Farm, Mundt Dairy, Clear Crest Farm, Nathan Gibbs, and Schmit Family Dairy LLC. Although somatic cells occur naturally and are not a food safety concern, dairy farmers monitor them because they can be used as a measure of the health of their cows. Processors also pay a premium for milk with low counts. A farmer whose herd has a very low count can receive a significantly higher price per hundredweight compared to a farmer whose herd average is high. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and University of Minnesota dairy experts have worked with the state’s dairy farmers to lower somatic cell counts. When the initiative began in 2003, the 100 herds honored that year included those with SCC averages as high as 144,000, compared to the current goal of obtaining a SCC under 100,000.