A study was carried out in five herds from central and southern Chile in order to establish the effect of increasing somatic cell counts on the production and composition of milk. Information coming from a monthly control system for each of the animals belonging to the experimental dairy herds was managed in a computer database designed for said purpose. Starting from the records registered in two years of data collection, the relations existing among the somatic cell count and the production and composition of milk were studied. A general adjustment model was established allowing an adequate explanation of this phenomenon (y = a + bx + cx2 +, where a, b, and c are parameters; y = Total Solids, % (ST); Butterfat, % (MG) and Non Fat Solids, % (SNG); and x = level of mastitis (assessed in ranges 0 to 9)). The main results were the following: a one unit increment in somatic cell count represented a decrease in milk production of 0.760 and 0.790 kg d-1, for range 1 vs. 0.530 and 0.810 (P<0.05) for range 9, for heifers and dairy cows respectively. The values found for the composition parameters, in the same order, were as follows: 0.095 and 0.092 for range 1 vs. 0.024 and 0.092 for range 9 for ST; 0.021 and 0.031 vs. 0.010 and 0.015 for MG; 0.068 and 0.065 vs. - 0.025 and 0.068 for SNG. These results confirm that losses due to sub-clinical mastitis have an important and detrimental effect on milk production and composition.