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As we’ve gotten more serious about commitment to our goats and our breeding program, we’ve been participating in a variety of performance programs offered by the American Dairy Goat Association. As a herd who’d main focus is dairy production, one of the most useful programs we’ve participated in so far has been DHIR milk testing.
DHIR (Dairy Herd Improvement Registry) requires testing and weighing of the milk production of each of the lactating does within your herd. The information from each test result is processed by ADGA to determine a number of inheritable traits of the does, monetary value of their production, and a number of other factors that contribute to important designations, such as Superior Genetics, within the ADGA.
Types Of DHIR Milk Testing
There are several types of testing that ADGA will recognize. Each of these types of testing has different requirements for earning official recognition within ADGA. However, most people test under four types of testing:
Standard Test – DHIR 20
This test requires a certified Supervisor to weigh and sample two milkings within a 24 hour period, and sign off on the results. This is done every 24-45 days, and usually calls for 8 tests per doe and a 240 day lactation to qualify for most designations. A Verification Test must also be performed by a second Supervisor during the lactation in order to qualify does for Top 10 designations.
This requires a minimum 3 herds to participate together, taking turns supervising each other’s sampling and weighing.
Owner Sampling – O/S 40
For this type of milk testing, and owner must complete some training with documentation to be submitted to the ADGA. A verification by a certified Supervisor is required when the majority of the milking does are 60-150 days fresh. In order for a doe to qualify for any designations with this test the must complete a minimum of 8 tests and 240 days of lactation.
ADGA One Day Milk Test
ADGA One Day Milk tests can usually be performed at specified ADGA sanctioned shows. A does is milked out three times during the day and the milk is weighed, sampled and verified by a Supervisor. A doe can earn her milk star this way, but the production values from that test are not reflected on pedigrees and the data is not used in genetic evaluation. A doe also cannot earn an AR designation with this test.
If you decide you are interested in doing milk testing, your first step is to contact the ADGA and get their DHIR starter kit. The information that comes with it can be a little overwhelming, so take it piece by piece.
The most important information contained within the DHIR packet is a list of approved testing facilities in your area where you will be able to submit your milk samples and will report the results to ADGA. Contact the facility that is closest and will work best for you. They will send you their own packet of information which will include their fee schedule, sample submission requirements and Supervisor certification information.
Submit your DHIR enrollment form to ADGA. The herd registration fee varies from $45 to $75. All of your does in milk will need to be included on your test – you cannot pick and choose. There is an $5 registration discount if you also enroll for Linear Appraisal.
You don’t need a whole lot of equipment in order to do DHIR milk testing. The main piece of equipment you’ll need is a hanging scale that reads in 10ths of a pound. Your DHIA (Dairy Herd Improvement Association) testing facility should be able to provide you with a list of affordable scales that are approved for testing. We got ours through Amazon for around $12. Once you purchase a scale, it must then be calibrated and certified with your testing facility yearly for accuracy. You will need some kind of bucket as well to hang from the scale and weigh milk in.
Your DHIA testing facility will send you tubes with preservative in them for collecting and submitting milk samples. They will also send you a dipper for collecting samples, and all of the paperwork to be filled out by you or your Supervisor for each test.
A lot of people claim that DHIR milk testing is cost prohibitive. We feel the fees are reasonable for the wealth of data we receive from the testing. We test through Dairy One, and this is what our annual fee schedule looks like for 12 does on test.
- ADGA herd registration – $50 annually
- Dairy One Startup Charge – $30 – One time charge that gets you your sample tubes, ice packs, dipper and shipping container
- Scale Certification -Dairy One – $24 annually
- Dairy One Technician Certification – $20 annually
- Lab and processing fees – $30 per test
- Shipping – It generally cost me around $10 USPS priority mail to send my samples in for each test, and Dairy One charges $12 each test to mail the testing tubes back to me
So, annual fees for us for a minimum of 8 tests run us apx. $500 all together for the year, with 12 does on test.
What You Get Out of Testing
Is being in milk test worth it? That’s a question every herd must answer for themselves. Participating in any ADGA performance program shows a dedication to improving your own herd and the breed of dairy goat you own as a whole. The genetic data that’s generated is incredibly valuable to your herd and ADGA.
If you’re a data junky, your test results will be incredibly fascinating as you analyze the data from each test. Even if numbers aren’t your thing, it’s still really great to go over your numbers and learn about what it means for each of your does, your lines, and your breeding program as a whole. Because we are primarily a dairy herd, this is an incredible tool for us. It has already helped us to improve our feeding regimen and breeding program.
Serious buyers also recognize the value of milk testing, and it will increase the value of offspring, and does you may wish to sell. Offering milk test data to potential buyers can give them a really great scientific picture of the potential that they’re purchasing.
ADGA Milk Star and Advanced Registry
For a lot of herds that participate in the DHIR testing program, the goal is to earn pedigree designations for their goats.
Does can earn a *M, or “star” by meeting minimum production requirements of milk, protein or butterfat for their age at freshening, through acquiring points on a one day milk test, or through their progeny. If there is a number in front of the *M, it indicates how many generations of does in the line have earned their milk stars consecutively.
An AR (Advanced Registry) designation is harder to achieve, with a more narrow focus. Any doe who has an AR designation has met all of the minimum production requirements for their age at freshening, as designated in the ADGA Guidebook.
Can I Dam Raise and Do Milk Test?
Absolutely! This question has popped up a lot regarding milk test, and I’m her to tell you it’s possible. We dam raise, but try to do a combination style here kids still take a bottle regularly. This way kids can easily be pulled from their dam for a 24 hour testing period. However, even if you’re dam raising 24/7, you can still milk test. Within two weeks, kids can be pulled from their damn over night, and you can do a morning milk and submit it on test. That test will be marked “Abnormal” and they will calculate appropriately.
While you should aim to get a first test done on a doe within 30-45 days of freshening, you do actually have 90 days to get it submitted. This allows for plenty of time to get kids to a place where the damn can be milked twice within 24 hrs. However, bear in mind, the longer you wait to submit the first test, the harder it will be to squeeze in 8 tests over the lactation.