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A Numbers Game: Impact of Mastitis and High SCC

December 21, 2018
POSTED BY: Mark Kirkpatrick | DVM, MS | Managing Veterinarian | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

Waste not, want not.

When you factor in the cost of milk waste, decreased milk production, treatment costs and added labor costs from mastitis and high somatic cell counts (SCC), both herd health and financial implications can add up quickly. It’s a numbers game nobody wants to play. To better comprehend the risk, let’s look at some of those numbers.

Mastitis: A billion-dollar problem

It’s estimated that mastitis costs the dairy industry an average of $2 billion per year. Mastitis can cost producers about $444 per each mastitis case on their operation.1 Driving this taxing expense are labor, milk discard, treatment and veterinary care. Another factor in the cost of a clinical case of mastitis is the erosion of the lactation curve, in which the cow loses production in a clinical case and doesn't recover her former production.

High SCCs: A colossal financial impact

According to a study, cows with a high SCC — greater than 200,000 cells/mL at the first Dairy Herd Improvement test — were classified with subclinical mastitis infections. Traditionally, we tend to shy away from treating signs we can’t see. But if you look at these financial implications of high first-test SCC, the numbers are too big to avoid.

  • 1,583 pounds of lost milk production, amounting to $285 (based on $18/cwt) in lost milk yield. These losses extend through 210 days in lactation.2
  • 2.5 times more likely to develop a clinical case of mastitis by 60 days in milk (DIM) than the rest of the herd — not to mention the cost of treatment and reduced milk production 2
  • 3 times more likely to be culled within the first 60 DIM when compared with unaffected cows 2
  • 17 additional days open (not pregnant) 2

Increase profits by lower SCC

SCC was identified as a key driver of profitability on dairies in a study by Zoetis and Compeer Financial that analyzed 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production-record summaries with an average herd size of 1,087 cows. 3*

The top third of herds in the study had a bulk tank SCC average of 132,000 cells/mL, while, the worst one-third of herds had a bulk tank SCC average of 284,000 cells/mL. This difference in SCC was associated with an 11-pound difference in milk per cow per day, adding up to $159 in net farm income per cow. 3*

The minimal difference between the bulk tank SCC averages of top- and low-performing herds indicates that 200,000 SCC is not low enough as an industry standard. In the study, 5.5 pounds per cow per day was lost with every 100,000-cell increase in bulk tank SCC. 3*

Considering this, the long-term impact of cell counts at the accepted standard of 200,000 can be very expensive. To combat this, the challenge is to set a lower goal to reduce your SCC to 150,000 or even 100,000.

Don’t allow mastitis or high SCC to negatively impact your dairy. Incorporate best management practices to increase your profits. Continue reading for mastitis management tips you won’t want to miss. Learn more about genomic testing with CLARIFIDE® Plus to reduce mastitis risk and move the performance needle on your dairy. Visit


*Results based on average herd size of 1,087 from Zoetis/Compeer Financial study.

1Rollin E, Dhuyvetter KC, Overton MW. The cost of clinical mastitis in the first 30 days of lactation: An economic modeling tool. Preventive Veterinary Medicine. 2015;122(3):257-264.

2 Kirkpatrick MA, Olson JD. Somatic Cell Counts at First Test: More than a Number, in Proceedings. NMC Annu Meet 2015;53-56.

3 Lormore M. What Drives Financial Success on a Dairy? Parsippany, NJ: Zoetis; 2018.





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