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Dairy farmers honored for top cow care

A Becker County dairy farmer is among the top 100 dairy producers in Minnesota.

Jay Hansen produces milk for Bongard Creameries, according to a news release from  Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson.

A half dozen farmers from Otter Tail County also made the list.

In honor of June Dairy Month, Frederickson released the annual Top 100 list of Minnesota dairy farms demonstrating superior dairy herd management skills as measured by their cows’ low somatic cell count average.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the University of Minnesota have been working with the state’s dairy farmers for the past decade to reduce somatic cell counts and as a result, the average SCC level has dropped significantly.

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

Although somatic cells occur naturally and are not a food-safety concern, dairy farmers monitor them because processors will pay a premium for milk with low counts.

A farmer whose herd has a very low count can receive significantly more per hundredweight compared to a farmer whose herd average is high.

When the initiative began in 2003, the SCC levels on the Top 100 list were as high as 144,000 compared to an SCC of 100,000 or below in 2012.

Nineteen Minnesota dairies have been on the Top 100 list in at least eight out of the past ten years.