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This article is part of the supplement: Focus on Bovine Mastitis: knowledge into practice

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Global trends in milk quality: implications for the Irish dairy industry

SJ More

Author Affiliations

Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis, UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

Irish Veterinary Journal 2009, 62(Suppl 4):S5-14  doi:10.1186/2046-0481-62-S4-S5

Published: 1 April 2009


The quality of Irish agricultural product will become increasingly important with the ongoing liberalisation of international trade. This paper presents a review of the global and Irish dairy industries; considers the impact of milk quality on farm profitability, food processing and human health, examines global trends in quality; and explores several models that are successfully being used to tackle milk quality concerns. There is a growing global demand for dairy products, fuelled in part by growing consumer wealth in developing countries. Global dairy trade represents only 6.2% of global production and demand currently outstrips supply. Although the Irish dairy industry is small by global standards, approximately 85% of annual production is exported annually. It is also the world's largest producer of powdered infant formula. Milk quality has an impact on human health, milk processing and on-farm profitability. Somatic cell count (SCC) is a key measure of milk quality, with a SCC not exceeding 400,000 cells/ml (the EU milk quality standard) generally accepted as the international export standard. There have been ongoing improvements in milk quality among both established and emerging international suppliers. A number of countries have developed successful industry-led models to tackle milk quality concerns. Based on international experiences, it is likely that problems with effective translation of knowledge to practice, rather than incomplete knowledge per se, are the more important constraints to national progress towards improved milk quality.

global dairy industry; Ireland; milk quality; quality; somatic cell count