Mastitis lowers farm profitability, reduces product quality and quantity, and potentially damages exports and the image of milk. It has a "big picture" impact on our whole Australian dairy industry, and it is also a daily concern for everyone who milks cows or advises farmers about udder health or milk quality issues.
Countdown Downunder is a National Industry program established by Dairy Australia to tackle cell counts and help farmers meet new quality standards, improve farm profitability and protect export markets. The project has engineered a change in the culture of many of the people who professionally advise farmers on milk quality.
Why are cell counts an industry issue?
Australia's dairy industry is worth more than $7 billion a year and contributes $2 billion to Australia's balance of trade. International expectations for milk quality are increasing with new European standards. Since 1 January 1998, the European Economic Commission has regarded milk or milk products made from raw cows' milk with cell counts above 400,000 cells/mL as unsuitable for human consumption (Directive 92/46). Other importing customers are increasingly using this standard.
Broadly speaking, the more somatic cells in milk the lower the quality. High cell counts interfere with dairy product manufacture, and indicate poor quality processes on the farm. Clinical mastitis cases on-farm can also cause substantial production losses. All Australian milk must be below the 400,000 cells/mL threshold for Australia to maintain its reputation as a supplier of quality milk products. Otherwise dairy farmers will receive lower prices for their milk, and Australia may lose exports.
In 1998 the Australian dairy industry set national targets and established Countdown Downunder to help Australia's dairy farms achieve these targets.
Visit the Countdown Downunder website for information on managing cell counts in your herd.