DHI – Milk Testing

DHI – Milk Testing

Getting Started in DHI/ Milk Testing

Guinevere McIntyre, from original posting on the IDGA website

Here’s a good old cliche that is certainly true for the Dairy Herd Improvement (or DHI, DHIR, DHIA) program:  It is easier than you think!

Why would one be interested in the program in the first place?  You get tangible evidence of your herd’s milk production and can track each goat individually, getting information on quantity and butterfat and protein content percentages.   That all helps with management and breeding decisions, and can also earn your does some milking stars and Top Ten status, if you are doing it through ADGA.  And there’s more – not only are you learning about and promoting your own herd, the doe’s stats are entered into breed averages that help with the enhancement of that breed and dairy goats in general.  This is the type of info that the dairy cow world has in abundance – as dairy goat owners, we are working on getting there!

Here I will give you the very basics to get started, including links that will provide further details.

You will need:

  1. A tester
  2. A calibrated scale
  3. Contact with the DHI lab of your choice
  4. Enrollment with ADGA if desired

THE TESTER:  The requirements for a tester are simple, and once you’ve made contact with your DHI lab, they will help your tester get certified and ready to go. The tester cannot be a relative or anyone with a vested interest in your herd, but beyond those simple restrictions, it can be just about anyone.  Ideally you’ll want someone responsible (who will show up on test day!) and with an eye for detail for careful milk weight readings, getting sterile milk samples for each doe, and filling out the paperwork.  (Again, I promise, all very straight-forward stuff.)

THE SCALE:  You can spring for a digital scale, or go for a simpler hanging scale.  It does need to be calibrated – possibly at a local lab or your local post office may be able to do it.  I send mine in to my DHI lab, and they calibrate it for a nominal fee.  This has to be done annually, so I do it every January.

THE DHI LAB:  A good helpful DHI lab makes all of this easy.  Mine is wonderful and so accommodating with any question I have.  I use the lab at Langston University, managed by Eva Vasquez.  Follow this link for contact info for Langston as well as a complete list of labs that work with ADGA:  http://adga.org/forms/list-of-affiliates/

ADGA:  If you are doing this to improve your goat herd, most likely you will want to link your DHI testing through ADGA, so this information will get entered into their genetics website and your does will be eligible for Top Ten lists and milking charts.  Follow this link to set this up with ADGA:  http://adga.org/steps-for-adga-dhir/

There are different programs of ADGA testing that are outlined in the above link.  Owner sampler is very attractive to a lot of people as they do not have to coordinate with an outside tester, but does not qualify the does for Top Ten.  The standard program DHI-20, once described to me as the “gold standard,” involves once-a-month tests with your tester running the tests, taking the weights and pulling a milk sample from each doe.  Then you mail in the milk samples and the weight results and you’re done.  You indicate when the doe is dried up and then start up again a week after they freshen.  This is the test I use, and falling into a routine with it was quick and easy.

At first I was intimidated about starting a DHI program here, but in the end the process was (and continues to be!) smooth and straight-forward.  Along with ADGA’s linear appraisals, what I learn from the milk tests provides important insight as I continue to work to improve my herd.
ADDENDUM 4-20-14:  On the IDGA website, I reprinted an excellent write-up on starting DHI, with the kind permission of the author, Kristie of Land of Havilah Nubians.  Please visit this link to get more info:  http://www.iowadairygoat.org/dhimore.html

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