After reading my post on 5 reasons to milk test your does (or cows), you have decided you want to get started! So, what next?
1. Read the rules. If you have goats, you can do DHIR (Dairy Herd Improvement for the Registry) milk testing through the American Dairy Goat Association or American Goat Society, whichever one you use to register your goats. (Click on the name of each registry to see their rules.)
2. Do the paperwork with your registry to sign up. The test year runs from January 1 to December 31, so you should sign up towards the end of this year if you want to be on test next year. You should begin testing each doe early in her lactation. There are a variety of test types available so you can choose one that works best for you. In “Standard 20” testing, a tester comes to your farm twice in a 24-hour period to watch you milk your does and take a sample of the milk. In “owner-sampler” you do all of the sampling, weighing, and recording of weights. And there are several other options between these two extremes. An advantage of Standard testing is that you do not have to have a verification test done unless you think one of your does might be good enough to be in the Top Ten. All of the other types of testing require a verification test, which means a different tester comes to your farm once a year.
3. Choose a lab. Each month after you milk your does for the test, the milk will be sent to a lab where it will be tested for protein, butterfat, and somatic cells. You can get a list of the labs through ADGA. You do not necessarily have to use the lab nearest you, so research your options. Although each registry has rules and standards for what you need to do in order for your does to be awarded stars for their achievements, you will also need to have a DHI lab, which may have additional rules that may make it more challenging for some herds to participate. For example, I live in Illinois but use a lab in New York because the labs closer to me have rules that would make it financially impractical for me to use them. One of the labs would require an employee to do my verification testing, which would wind up costing me several hundred dollars for a single test because I’d have to pay for that person’s travel expenses from out of state, as well as his or her hotel room and meals for the 24 hours that the test takes.
4. Find a milk tester. Although some labs might require an employee to do this, others will allow someone you know to take the certification training and exam to get certified. The tester cannot be a family member, farm employee, or someone who has any financial interest in your herd. We asked our children’s 4-H leader to be our tester, but others have had friends or neighbors who have been certified to do the milk testing. If you are on the owner-sampler program, you are the monthly tester, but you will have to have a verification test done by someone, so be sure to ask the lab if you can have someone local do that test. I have heard of some labs requiring a tester to have a certain number of years experience before being allowed to do a verification test.
5. Buy a scale for weighing the milk. Traditionally, hanging scales with dials were used, but digital scales are now allowed if they read milk in pounds and tenths of pounds, rather than pounds and ounces. Your scale’s accuracy must be certified annually. This service is usually available from the lab you are using.
Now, you are ready to schedule your first test!
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