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Abstract

The most widely used measure of milk hygiene is Somatic Cell Count (SCC), where low SCC values indicate more wholesome milk. Dirt, often associated with grazing, carry bacteria and these bacteria can cause mastitis. Milk from cows with mastitis generally has higher SCC levels and cows with mastitis are most readily treated with antibiotics. Milk with high SCC is penalized by distributers as it is difficult to process and is not considered as wholesome in fluid markets. Grazing cows is common for many organic farmers. However, regulators prohibit antibiotic use under organic production. Intensive management protocols, maintaining equipment, and closely managing the herd’s environment offer substitutes for antibiotics use. Organic milk carries with it a substantial premium but may be at higher risk of discounts or penalties if the milk is more likely to have higher SCC levels. There are two forces at play concerning the quality of organic milk relative to conventional milk. For one, required and proscribed production practices create significant problems when managing milk quality. Secondly, a large premium exists to produce organic milk of high quality. This research seeks to better understand these and other determinants of SCC for conventional milk and for organic milk.

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