DSCC testing provides added value for Estonian farmers

Estonian Livestock Performance Recording Ltd (EPJ) explains how the introduction of the Differential Somatic Cell Count (DSCC) parameter has provided added value for Estonian farmers to improve udder health management.


Differential Somatic Cell Count (DSCC) testing can make a huge difference for farmers working with udder health management in dairy herds. In this interview, Manager Kaivo Ilves from EPJ, explains how the introduction of the Differential Somatic Cell Count (DSCC) parameter has provided added value for Estonian farmers to improve their herd management.

As a testing company, EPJ focuses on the improvement of the efficiency of animal husbandry by performing animal recording and independent testing of the quality of raw milk. EPJ Laboratory offers independent testing of the quality of raw milk for dairy herd improvement (DHI) and milk payment purposes. Their DHI services cover approximately 400 farmers, making up around 96% of the entire dairy population in Estonia.

Roughly 70,000 raw milk samples are analyzed every month, recording fat, protein, urea content and somatic cell count. “Our routine milk recording covers the basic parameters: fat%, protein%, SCC, urea. Additionally, farmers can order the parameters BHB, DSCC, a mastitis PCR test (up to 16 mastitis pathogens) and a milk pregnancy test,” explains Kaivo Ilves.

The DSCC parameter was recently added to their DHI testing services in connection with an investment in a Fossomatic™ 7 DC. “It was good timing for us as we had to make an investment and it opened up the opportunity to start offering something new. We took it as a possibility to offer additional herd management information to farmers, based on milk samples that we have available anyhow, so they can benefit from this. It provided the possibility to add value to our services.”

Kaivo explains further, that it was interesting to see how the testing parameter works in practice and that it provided a great opportunity to show how the company is moving forward, both as a team and as an organization.

EPJ has two lines in total running the DSCC parameter, Kaivo explains.  

Approximately, 40% of samples/cows are now tested for DSCC and these cows are kept in 25% of our herds. The farms are charged an extra fee for the DSCC information
Kaivo Ilves

Advantages of DSCC for farmers and veterinarians
We asked Kaivo, how they managed to promote the value of DSCC testing to farmers and other stakeholders such as veterinarians. “We launched the service during our Annual Exhibition of Estonian Agriculture, and this is a good environment to meet decision makers. A year later, we held the same seminar, which summarized the results obtained during the year, meaning practical experience.”

In the experience of EPJ, the main attraction of working with the DSCC parameter for farmers is the additional information it provides to improve the udder health situation, without additional effort to get the information. This is because the DSCC test does not require additional samples to be collected specifically for this purpose and because the test does not incur a high expense from the laboratory.

But how easy is it for dairy farmers to use the DSCC results from the new udder health report to optimize their herd management? This depends very much on the individual farmer explains Ilves.

“As a service provider we have tried our best in terms of presenting the data in the new report and in terms of knowledge transfer. It seems that some farmers need some support and advice to use the information. It is easier if there are some examples of results and some articles or guidelines to hand out to the farmers. After leaving some documentation, our field staff can then follow up with the farmers during their subsequent visit,” says Kaivo.

Since the launch of the DSCC parameter, farmers are beginning to incorporate the added data into their daily routines. At EPJ, experience has shown that farmers have been focusing primarily on one or two of the new udder health groups and working more with animals from these specific groups.

This information helps the farmers in their decision-making process, in terms of which cows to cull or to select for other tests such as the mastitis PCR
Kaivo Ilves

Of course, DSCC is not the only information farmers are using and it is taken as additional information. Getting to know the new service takes time, says Kaivo, adding that the trust is growing step by step.

“The first step is simply to track data and trends, the second step is to ask questions and find answers,” he explains. “As soon as the farmer receives the answers, he/she can take actions and see the results. If there is a good advisor/vet available he can help with the whole process, but it seems it will take a few months anyway.”

According to Kaivo, it is clear that the DSCC is one of the tools to support final decisions and actions on farm. “It is easier to see the results if the farmer is highlighting udder health as a problem already,” he adds.

Besides farmers, some veterinarians have been working with the SCC and DSCC data. “Some use SCC and DSCC to decide which animals should be tested with mastitis PCR. Some take this information into account when deciding which animals should be slaughtered.”

A value adding investment
Investing in a Fossomatic™ 7 DC was part of a plan to offer additional services to farmers and so far, the response has been positive.

“The investment that we made to actually launch the DSCC as an additional service (e.g., preparation of IT system, implementation of new SCC and DSCC-based udder health report, promotion, knowledge transfer), has already received good acceptance from the market. The best proof is that we installed the second Fossomatic 7 DC in June 2022 to improve the workflow and testing capacity in our laboratory. The DHI service as a package has additional value as we are able to provide more information for our farmers,” he concludes.

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