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NMC: An industry effort to improve milk quality

Norm Schuring Published on 14 January 2009
Almost 50 years ago the growing number of mastitis cases and accompanying costs sparked the need for producers, allied industry professionals and researchers to join together in an effort to reverse this negative, costly trend. Together, industry leaders created NMC (formerly the National Mastitis Council) with the sole purpose of controlling mastitis to enhance milk quality. Today the organization includes nearly 2,000 members from more than 40 countries and has evolved to offer a variety of materials and educational opportunities.

For producers and allied industry professionals alike, NMC has become the industry standard for milk quality recommendations and innovations.

Through educational opportunities, industry recommendations and research analysis, NMC continues to provide the industry with practical methods for advancing mastitis treatment while also presenting timely information about new milk quality opportunities.

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Protocols, procedures and products
One way NMC has impacted the industry is through peer-reviewed recommendations. Although the council does not set standards or enforce regulations, NMC does put forth multiple recommendations by which the organization believes mastitis can best be controlled.

These recommendations have been developed through NMC committee meetings and events that bring together a wide array of research results, industry input and producer viewpoints.

Some examples of NMC-endorsed recommendations include:

• The practice of applying pre- and post-milking teat disinfectant There has been much discussion about the need for pre- and post-dipping at milking. To save time and money, some producers have removed pre-dipping from their milking protocol. As weather cools post-dipping has often been blamed for chapping or freezing teats, while the practice actually protects them. Backed by research and industry input, NMC put forth the recommendation to pre- and post-dip as part of the milking protocol to keep teats clean and healthy and minimize the number of new mastitis infections.

• Milking procedures Milking procedure recommendations have been created in an effort to identify sound practices proven to control mastitis and promote the proper letdown and collection of high-quality milk.

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• A mastitis control program This checklist created by NMC evaluates every area of the dairy that influences milk quality. It also recommends regular monitoring of the herd’s goals for udder health and record-keeping practices related to milk quality. By using the checklist as a guide, producers can ensure their operation is meeting milk quality goals and maintaining the highest milk-harvesting standards.

• Guidelines for dairy goals and product use NMC provides multiple recommendations relating to a wide range of topics including guidelines for herd somatic cell counts, teat dip and barrier efficacy, teat sanitizer concentrations, milk sampling and reporting bulk tank cell counts.

The wide range of materials allows producers to find and use the information necessary to make changes to their dairy based on their situation.

A producer-focused council
NMC was founded on the idea of promoting the highest-quality milk through education and regular communications with producers to best support milk quality management on their dairy. Although allied industry professionals are involved with communicating and implementing the recommendations, producers are the target audience, as NMC’s recommendations and ideas will ultimately be implemented by the dairy producer.

There are many benefits from involvement with NMC. The ideas of the organization, as well as the information it provides, offer practical solutions that producers can use to control mastitis, resulting in healthier animals, high-quality milk and additional profits.

At the 2008 regional meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, NMC held the first-ever Spanish workshop for dairy employees. Practical knowledge of milking protocols, herd health and animal handling was shared with attendees.

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While these sessions were taking place, others ran concurrently with new information for herd managers and dairy owners. In the future, the organization may host similar workshops, depending on meeting location.

To provide the latest information regarding milk quality, NMC delivers regular communications to producers and industry professionals to further educate each audience about the importance of promoting and maintaining the highest-quality milk. Udder Topics is a regular communication sent to all NMC members that focuses on new research and recommendations.

A newer communication, The Udder Quarter, is distributed to dairy media quarterly and provides updates that editors can pass along to their readers through feature articles, research summaries and other regular communications.

NMC also presents annual National Dairy Quality Awards to recognize producers focused on the highest milk quality within their herds. The number of award nominations has grown tremendously, boasting 215 nominees from 21 states for the 2008 contest, with herds ranging in size from 14 to 2,150 cows.

Producers are nominated by their local equipment dealer, veterinarian, cooperative representative or other key dairy professional. Award winners are producers working diligently to promote milk quality through proper milking procedures, a clean and dry environment, early mastitis detection and progressive use of technology to promote optimal udder health.

On the radar for 2009
In the coming year NMC will continue to focus on promoting milk quality through multiple avenues by delving deeper into older topics with more recent research, as well as new research and opportunities.

At the 2009 Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, later this month, special focus will be placed on the following topics:

• A new look at environmental mastitis
The preconvention meeting will focus completely on how to manage and monitor the environment in an effort to control mastitis. Information on how stall design, cow comfort, stocking density and ventilation influence milk quality will be presented to reiterate the importance of managing a cow’s environment for optimal udder health.

• Consumers’ perception of milk quality
This topic will focus on milk quality from a consumer’s purchasing perspective, both domestically and internationally, to provide a unique point of view regarding milk quality.

• The dairy cow’s immune system
How well cows are able to battle new mastitis cases will influence infection and cure rates. Sessions will focus on how best to boost the immune system to keep cows healthy and avoid new mastitis cases, rather than focusing on treating them.

With a keen eye and clear vision focused on enhancing milk quality, NMC provides the dairy industry with new information, clear recommendations and the knowledge necessary to promote the highest milk quality.

Called together with one common goal, NMC supports dairy producers and allied professionals looking to improve milk quality through a variety of avenues. PD

Norm Schuring is currently serving as first vice president for the National Mastitis Council.

Norm Schuring
Vice President for GEA WestfaliaSurge

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