ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has recognized 96 of the state’s dairy farms for superior herd management skills by achieving an average somatic cell count of under 100,000.

Somatic cell count is a key indicator of milk quality. A lower count is better for cheese production and a longer shelf life for bottled milk.

Making the list from area counties was the Dean and Elizabeth Johnson dairy farm in Cottonwood County.

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 SCC list of Minnesota dairy farms is online at mda.state.mn.us/lowscc.

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