by Amy Rogers, Glimmerwood Farm
I know, milk testing can seem so daunting. Where do you begin? How do I find my DHIA? What lab do I use? What’s a Data Records Processing Center (DRPC) and how do I find one? While the ADGA website has a ton of information, it can still be overwhelming. Let’s see if I can simplify the starting process some.
The very, very first step to take is to decide and commit to putting your herd on test.
First, contact your DHIA- Dairy Herd Improvement Association. The ADGA website has a complete list of affiliates under “Performance Programs Forms”. Find one near you and contact them to join. Your DHIA representative will likely ask you a bunch of questions regarding your herd and how knowledgeable you are about things. There will be paperwork to fill out as well. This is the person who will help you obtain your herd code. Ask which DRPC they are affiliated with, or whom they recommend. The DHIA can help you get set up with the DRPC as well.
You may need to choose a DRPC. If so, it’s perfectly fine to ask around and find one you want to work with, if your DHIA isn’t affiliated with one in particular. They’ll hold all your herd records and info, do the magic math to get your statistics for your herd and each doe you have on test. The DRPC will assign your herd code and either give it to you or have your DHIA Rep give it to you. This is a funny-looking 8-digit code that will be unique to your herd
Next, you’ll want to take the Milk Test Supervisor class. But I don’t want to be a supervisor yet, you say! It’s ok. This class will explain the basics of the records you’ll be keeping, the different testing plans, and how to do about milk test in general. It’s not necessary to supervise anyone else, but it’s good info to have so you can understand and follow along better. And don’t be worried if you are still as clear as mud on things after your first time through this class. There’s a lot to absorb, and it will come with time and exposure.
Finding a lab can be as simple as using the one your DHIA recommends, one you feel comfortable with, or is closest to you. Don’t be afraid to ask other dairy goat people who they use and why. It’s perfectly acceptable to shop around and find a good price. But remember, you’ll need to ship your samples to them if they’re not local to you, and that can affect how much being on Milk Test costs you. Ask about their pricing and how they prefer to be paid each month. They will also provide your sample tubes and suggest their preferred method of packing your samples for them.
Ok, now you’ve got your DHIA, DRPC, herd code, supervisor class, and lab out of the way. What’s next? Find a test supervisor! This can be another goat person in your area, a friend, or a neighbor. It cannot be a relative or anyone that co-owns your herd with you or anyone you are acting as supervisor for. No reciprocity! ADGA wants all testing to be fair and above board, hence the rules. This person will need to take the Milk Supervisor Training and be assigned a supervisor number.
How will we weigh the milk?
Oh! You’ll need a scale for weighing milk and have it certified. This part should have been gone over in the Milk Supervisor class. But as a reminder, you’ll want to check with your DHIA to see what scale they recommend and who to have certify it as well as any associated costs. Quick, simple, and important, because you’ll need this every single time you milk your goats on test day.
Got all that? Good! Now you’re ready to schedule your first test!
While there is no official time limit for starting your milk test per ADGA, you’ll want to check with your DRPC to see if they have any guidelines. Most people will start their does sometime between 3-6 weeks after kidding so that the colostrum produced is gone, and true milk has come in.
And from here, you’ll want to follow the steps for testing that you learned about in your Milk Test Supervisor class. Don’t worry about mistakes. There are people about in FaceBook groups, at your DHIA, lab, DRPC, etc ready to help make sure you’re doing it all right.
So those steps again?
Take the Milk Test Supervisor class
Get Herd Code
Find a Test Supervisor
Get your Scale Certified
Schedule First Test
What about One Day Milk Competitions? That’s a different ball of wax we’ll leave for someone else who has participated.
You’re on your way! You can do it!