Somatics in cow's milk: treatment and prevention

The need to reduce somatics in cow's milk is very acute for the producer after the amendments were made to GOST R-52054-2003 on August 11, 2017. The requirements for the number of such cells in premium products have been significantly increased.

What are somatic cells and why are they bad for milk?

These are the “building blocks” of which multicellular organisms are made. For brevity, they are often referred to simply as somatics. Although this is a misnomer. Strictly speaking, somatics does not exist at all. There is "soma" - the body and "somatic" - the bodily. Everything else is a free interpretation.

Comment! In the body, there is only one type of cells that are not somatic - gametes.

Somatic cells are constantly renewed, old ones die off, new ones appear. But the body must somehow bring out the dead particles. One of these "exits" is milk. It is impossible to get rid of the somatic in it. The product contains dead cells of the epithelial layer lining the alveoli. The leukocytes, which are also somatic, also spoil the picture.

Relatively little attention has been paid to the performance of the somatic in the past. But it turned out that dead cells in milk significantly impair product quality. Because of them, they go down:

  • fat, casein and lactose;
  • biological usefulness;
  • heat resistance;
  • technological properties during processing;
  • acidity;
  • coagulability by rennet.

A large number of cells slows down the development of lactic acid bacteria. Because of such a number of somatics, it is impossible to prepare high-quality dairy products: from cheese to kefir and fermented baked milk, but it does not reduce the productivity of a cow. Any inflammation causes an increase in white blood cells. Due to the disease, the productivity of the cow is reduced. But an increase in somatics in milk indicates the development of internal inflammation, which can be diagnosed at an early stage. A large number of cells in milk helps to identify mastitis at a stage when there are no flakes or a decrease in milk yield.

Taking milk samples from each nipple into a separate cup helps to establish in which of the lobes the inflammatory process begins

Comment! The low quality of cheeses that Russian consumers complain about may be due precisely to the high content of somatic cells in milk.

Somatic norms in cow milk

Prior to the introduction of changes in GOST, milk of the highest class allowed the content of somatics at the level of 400 thousand per 1 ml. After the tightening of requirements in 2017, the indicators should be no more than 250 thousand per 1 ml for high-class milk.

Many factories have left the norms at the same level due to poor conditions for keeping cows in Russia. And this does not have the best effect on the dairy products they produce.

A perfectly healthy cow has somatic indicators of 100-170 thousand per 1 ml. But in a herd there are no such animals, therefore, in the industrial production of milk, the norms are slightly lower:

  • top grade - 250 thousand;
  • the first - 400 thousand;
  • the second - 750 thousand

Truly good products cannot be made from such raw materials. And if you consider that many factories continue to accept milk with an indicator of 400 thousand somatics, the situation is even more sad. In developed countries, the requirements for the extra grade are much higher. This can be easily seen in the table below:

Given the Swiss milk requirements, it is no surprise that the cheese produced in this country is considered the best in the world.

Causes of high levels of somatic cells in milk

Explaining the reasons for the high somatics will sound sad for many milk producers, but this is a violation of housing conditions and milking techniques. In rare cases, it can be attributed to heredity. In Western countries, cows with this genotype are tried to be culled from the herd.

Genetic causes also include the shape of the udder, which is inherited. If the mammary gland is irregular, the teats are damaged during milking. Such a cow does not milk well, and the milk remaining in the udder and microcracks provoke the development of mastitis. The same goes for the low-lying gland. Low-hanging udders are often damaged by dry grass stalks or stones. Through scratches, an infection gets into it, causing inflammation.

Other reasons provoking an increase in somatics in milk include:

  • improper feeding, which leads to metabolic disorders, decreased immunity and the development of acidosis and ketosis;
  • poor udder care;
  • poor quality milking equipment;
  • violation of machine milking technology;
  • general unsanitary conditions not only in the barn, but also poor maintenance of the milking equipment;
  • the presence of sharp edges of bars and smooth floors in the barn, which lead to injuries to the udder.

Since the true reasons for the high content of somatics in milk are by no means mystical, if desired, the manufacturer can fight to reduce this indicator in products.

Keeping livestock in improper conditions does not contribute to a decrease in the number of somatic cells in milk, and the health of such animals leaves much to be desired.

How to reduce somatics in cow milk

The choice of the method depends on whether it is really necessary to reduce the content of somatic cells in milk or whether you just want to mask the problem. In the latter case, manufacturers use special filters that reduce them by 30%.

Filtration helps the milk to pass the control upon delivery to the plant, but does not improve its quality. Not only disadvantages remain, but also pathogenic bacteria. In particular, with mastitis, there is a lot of Staphylococcus aureus in milk. This microorganism, when it enters the oral cavity, causes a sore throat in a person, similar to sore throat.

But there are honest ways to reduce somatics in milk:

  • carefully monitor the health of cows and the onset of mastitis;
  • provide livestock with good living conditions;
  • use high-quality serviceable milking equipment;
  • observe udder hygiene;
  • remove the device from the nipples without pulling up;
  • monitor the absence of dry milking at the beginning and end of the procedure;
  • handle nipples after milking;
  • monitor the observance of personal hygiene by personnel.

It is possible to improve the indicators of somatics in milk, but this will require serious efforts. In most farms, something is necessarily inconsistent with the correct housing of the cows.

Preventive actions

With regard to somatics, prevention essentially coincides with measures to reduce this indicator in milk. The number of somatic cells, especially leukocytes, increases dramatically during inflammation. And the prevention of such diseases is precisely to exclude traumatic factors. Compliance with sanitary requirements in the barn will reduce the chances of infection penetrating through damaged skin. It is also necessary to conduct regular express testing of milk for somatics.


Reducing somatics in cow milk is often difficult, but possible. It is unlikely that in modern Russian conditions it is realistic to achieve the indicators of Switzerland. Nevertheless, this must be strived for. And the serviceability and high quality of the milking equipment is a guarantee of not only a healthy udder, but also the highest milk yield.

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