My second blog post was going to be on our kidding season in a few weeks, however, I found myself with a little extra time and a lot of my previous customers who have bought goats from our herd asking about Dairy Herd Improvement Registry (DHIR) through American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA). We participated in DHIR in 2019. It was our first time three does received 1*M designation and one doe received her 4*M designation. Our bucks that were sold last year were awarded *B status and it gave us insight on our breeding program for this year. A doe earns *M designation based on her production of milk, butterfat or protein. Does with 2*M or higher represent does who have dams that also met the production requirement of at least one of those categories. So, our doe, FeatherNScale Plain Jane 4*M represents her meeting the criteria and 3 generations before her. Bucks are slightly different, the bucks that were awarded their *B status have dams who are *M and a sire who is also a *B buck.
I thought I would share what we learned, sometimes the hard way. The purpose of this is a general overview of the Owner Sampler testing option (OS-40) through Dairy One. It is not all inclusive and I encourage you to also read the resources and requirements from ADGA.
First, what is DHIR? DHIR is data that is collected that reveals the production of a dairy animal. It includes the quantity of milk in pounds, butterfat and protein in pounds and percentages. Those are just the main points, DHIR testing can also reveal issues with mammary health including mastitis through Somatic Cell Counts. SCC can be an indicator of infection, it also naturally rises over the course of lactation. Each test evaluates a 24-hour snapshot of a does production.
If you have researched DHIR and make the decision to go ahead with testing, apply for DHIR testing through ADGA and contact your DHIA, ours is Dairy One, for a startup packet with information on certification of scales and becoming a certified dairy technician. Becoming a certified technician is simple. You are provided a handbook and after reviewing you must complete an assessment. The staff at Dairy One are there to help, reach out if you are having issues understanding any of the information provided.
Once you are certified as a technician and officially on test with ADGA, all that is left is waiting for kidding season. We all have our preferences and beliefs when it comes to milking our does. Some pull kids and bottle raise, others solely dam raise, and we prefer a hybrid option. What drives our methodology is the health of the dam and kid. I find it very important the lessons that dams can teach their offspring. I would never compromise the health of a kid over that bond or relationship though. So, if all goes well and dam and kids are in good health, we follow a schedule. The first two weeks the kids get all the milk and all the time with their dam. Week three we allow the dams some away time, a little more each day till the kids can handle being separated at night. This is when we begin our milking schedule. We milk in the morning before reuniting dam and kid, and then we milk when we separate them at night. Dams go to their normal barn, the kids stay in the “nursery” barn. Twice a day milking isn’t for everyone, and some farms do great with once a day milking. I have done both and I prefer our results with twice a day milking, I find their udders aren’t overly stretched from consistent twenty four hour fills, and I like to monitor their udder health twice daily especially when weaning begins and once the kids are completely off the doe. Life happens mistakes can happen and I want to be as proactive as possible when it comes to our milking does well being. This constant monitoring is for their feed requirements as well as any question of udder issues from mastitis to a raw teat from an aggressive kid.
Develop a schedule that works for your farm and your family. A schedule that is sustainable and realistic. I am here on the farm 24 hours a day, a couple years ago I was milking twice a day and working 12-16 hour shifts 3-4 days a week, it was rough not only on me but it made it a chore and not a labor of love.
Once you are ready to start testing you can purchase the “start-up” pack which includes a cooler with test tubes for milk test and a sampling ladle. You will learn how to fill out the forms through certification, but I will provide a brief overview. One sheet is used to add or change an existing does record, record milking times, record if milk is sampled and weighed at each time, and the date of the test. A side note, if on twice a day milking your sample should be comprised of 50% from the first milking and 50% from the second. Butterfat and protein levels can be affected at different times of the day and if sampling during just one milking your results will be inaccurate. The second sheet “Herd Summary” includes an index number specific to a doe, an area to record milk weights for up to three separate milking’s. This sheet also offers the ability to track reproductive status or conditions affecting record (CAR). CAR can be utilized if your doe has something going on that would impact their test such as mastitis or being in heat. Each tube comes with a bit of preservative in it. You must label each tube with the does corresponding index number. I personally put the index number on the cover and write the does name on the bottom. This helps me prepare for the test and streamline the process. Our goats get milked in the same order every time, so I can line them up. This past year I milked entirely by hand, I would milk the doe, weigh the milk, use the sampling ladle to fill the tube halfway, seal and place in the cooler. The milk is added to my large milk container so that it is empty and ready for the next doe. This process might change a little for those using machines, I am switching to a machine this year so I might have more insight on this later. Once finished with the first milking, place the tubes in the refrigerator and use again when you milk the second time. Once finished with the two tests, make sure you sign your sheet and ensure all the information is complete. Send the box with samples, paperwork and a check to cover the cost of testing and to send the box back to Dairy One. I personally found that I could fit 7 tests inside of the flat rate $7.95 with a flat gel icepack priority mail through USPS. This saved me the return shipping cost and decreased the cost for the larger cooler box. All samples arrived at Dairy One safe and sound. I found that Sundays worked as great test days for us, that way we could send them out on Monday and Dairy One received it by Wednesday. Testing is an expense and any place you can save money you should try to.
A couple weeks after you submit your test you will receive your report packet. I won’t go over the sheets that are included individually but these reports contain a lot of good information. I don’t think I understood what the test was truly capable of tracking till the end of it.
This process is repeated each month throughout the duration of lactation. You are required to have a minimum of 8 tests on file and suggested to sustain lactation for 305 days. ADGA requires a verification test be performed within 150 days of lactation. This test is best performed at peak lactation, for us that happens between the third and fifth month. I missed this requirement initially and realized it when I was 145 days from lactation. I contacted the ADGA performance programs coordinator and explained the situation, she granted me permission to still do the verification test if it was performed and submitted as soon as possible. Again, these organizations want you to participate in these programs, it provides them with data as well.
The verification test is performed over a 24-hour period and consists of 3 tests for those on twice a day milking. The first test, which was at night for us is to mark the doe at baseline. The test is designed to asses at hours 12 and 24 from the doe being empty. The test needs to be performed by someone other than the owner who is also certified as a technician. It is common to find another herd that is on a similar schedule to perform the verification test on your herd, in return you perform it on their herd. The tester must be present for each of three milking’s, taking weights and performing the sampling of the milk. The form from ADGA is filled out by the tester and they then take the samples and send it out. Samples are not to remain with the owner unsupervised. This means your tester should take the samples and paperwork with them after the first test and return with them for the second test. This VT counts as one of the required eight tests, so arrange for this to occur in place of your monthly testing.
Now you have your eight tests, a completed verification test within 150 days and your nearing the end of lactation. You are almost done! The final and most important step is drying of your does, submitting a final “dry” test and once you receive your final reports from Dairy One you must send copies of your individual doe pages indicating that they are dry and lactation has ended for the season. If your doe has met the requirement in milk, butterfat or protein for a *M designation you will be notified by ADGA. Or if you are like me and you just can’t wait to know you can check the status on your doe through your online ADGA account.
The biggest takeaway of our first year of being on test is the paperwork. Ensuring you have applied and comply with deadlines is crucial to the success of your test season. We struggled with testing every thirty days, as it is easy to get caught up in the chaos of peak season. For us it was multiple farmers’ markets while attempting to get other “summer” farm projects completed. It is a commitment, but I can guarantee it is absolutely worth it. We participated in Linear Appraisal last year and ended the year with two does receiving Superior genetics and many with *M designations. I couldn’t be prouder of our herd and what we have accomplished in just under four years.
Here are a few helpful links:
ADGA DHIR FAQs
ADGA VT Form