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Step-by-Step Guide for Milk Test

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

By Nancy Boling, Springwater Dairy Goats

This article is going to focus on the steps to perform a milk test. Because there is some confusion about milk testing, I'd like to first emphasize, you are not required to weigh or sample milk daily. Weighing the milk is only required on test days, about once a month, though that schedule can vary slightly. To get the most accurate data a monthly test is ideal. It is also possible to dam raise and milk test, and there will be more on that below.

The first step is to schedule a test with your tester or decide on a day to test if you are doing the owner-sampler plan. On test day, try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible: same milking times, same feed, etc. Before your tester arrives, make sure your animals are wearing their visible IDs and have the registration papers available for tattoo checks.

If you are dam-raising, it is important to have a very kid-proof area to put the kids in, as they will definitely escape or nurse through fencing if they can! It is also helpful if you get the kids accustomed to taking bottles for test day, as well as get them used to going into the separation pen, if possible. They must be separated for the full 24-hour test, so if they are able to take a bottle, everyone will be much happier on test day.

Separate any nursing kids and milk or strip out does one milking interval before the first test (12 hours before for twice-a-day milking). This will set the clock for your milk test. A milk test is 24 hours of milk, regardless of if you milked that out in one, two, or three milkings, so be sure to do the pre-milking at an appropriate time based on your milking schedule. (Yes, you can do a milk test on once-a-day milking!) Pre-milking weights should not be recorded unless you are having a verification test.

Gather your supplies, including the barn sheet where you will record the milk weights and testing times. Be sure to get the sample vials from the specific lab you are using. Unless you are on one of the Innovative Test Plans (ITP), you will be weighing and sampling each milking.

The first thing to do on test day is to record the start time. Make sure to tare the scale with the bucket you plan to weigh in before adding any milk. If you are machine milking, you will milk one goat at a time, dumping between each. Record the weight, then take the sample. If you are milking twice a day, fill the sample vial halfway on first milking (there is an etched line halfway up the bottle for reference), and up to the second line near the top on the second milking-do not fill to the top, as fat can stick to the lid, decreasing your components. Label the sample vials in whatever way the lab requires. Be sure to dump the milk before the next goat! Record the stop time once all goats are milked.

Mail or drive your samples to the lab. The sample vials contain a preservative (orange pill) and once mixed do not need to be refrigerated, but if it's very hot it's still a good idea to include an ice pack when mailing. Do not leave the samples out in freezing weather or in a hot car, in the sun, etc. It is also important to note that the preservative is toxic and should not be fed to any animals! Depending on your DRCP, you may also need to record the milk weights on a computer or send them in. You will receive reports in the mail or on the computer, depending on your lab and DRCP with the daily testing information as well as the overall lactation totals.

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