305 Milk testing seems to be more daunting than it actually is to a lot of herd owners. Most of the uncertainty seems to revolve around getting set up and started. I’ve attempted to simplify it in a step-by-step process to help alleviate some stress and encourage more herds to just jump in and get testing! This will be a series of posts that will cover various parts of milk testing to hopefully make it much easier to understand. 

305 milk testing, in general, is not much more work than your regular routine if you are milking 2x a day already. Just a few more minutes one day a month to take samples and fill out paperwork. You are not testing every day of the month, only ONE day out of each month roughly. It is so very helpful and beneficial to your herd’s health and growth as a dairy breed. 

This series is going to cover 5 topics:
Series 1: Getting Started – Step by step guide on what to do to start milk testing
Series 2: The Big Day – Visiting your first milk test and how the rest of the year looks
Series 3: Verification Day – Going over preparing for and doing the verification test
Series 4: Completed Lactation – Discussing drying off your does and completing lactations
Series 5: FAQ – Send me any questions as we go through this and I’ll list them here!

So you have decided to jump in and go for it? Fantastic! This post will go over step by step how to get started with milk testing. You will need no special equipment other than your normal milking supplies and a scale that measures in 1/10.

Let’s get started!!

STEP 1: Choose your plan.  Decide on the testing plan you want to maintain. Below are very simplified descriptions and needs of each plan. You need to know your test plan so that you can give the information to the lab you choose below. You will also need to know if you have to become a certified tester or not. All tests except STANDARD require you to become a certified tester. Tester certification needs to be renewed annually depending on the place you take it.

If you need a tester, anyone can test for you that has no interest in your herd. No family or co-owners allowed, however neighbors and friends make fantastic testers. They would need to take the certification test which is fairly simple to do.

Do you want a tester to come once every month and test your does? In this case you will need 2 testers as you will need a different one for verification. You as the owner cannot be a tester on this plan. Your tester comes to your farm to test both morning and evening milkings.

Do you want to sample your does yourself monthly? This is a great option if you can’t find many testers near you. Many people choose this one. You only need to have 1 other ed tester come to do the verification test. You take all samples and weights yourself and send them in. A different tester needs to come to do the verification test. This plan usually doesn’t qualify for Top Ten awards depending on the registry.

You can do group testing with 3+ herds in which the owner of each herd becomes a tester and you all share responsibilities in supervising. A different owner in the group tests all the herds each month.

In this plan, your tester comes in the AM and owner samples in the PM. It then alternates the next month and owner samples in the AM and the tester comes in the PM. You will need to be a certified tester and you will need an additional person to come and do your verification test.

STEP 2: Choose your lab. You don’t have to choose a lab that is closest to you but it does make things more convenient. Be sure to check on the fees for the different labs to find what works best for you as they can range a good bit.

You can find a list for certified labs here: http://www.quality-certification.com/certifiedlab.asp You can also check with other testing herds to see what lab they prefer if the list is overwhelming for you. Contact the lab of your choice, tell them you are starting milk testing and want to start an account, they will walk you through what you need. The lab will assign your herd code which you will use on your paperwork so don’t lose it! Depending on the plan you chose, make sure you tell the lab that you need to become a certified tester. They will set that up so that you can take the test.  All your paperwork and testing vials for your first test will come from them as well.

STEP 3: Choose your processing center. This is the records place where the lab sends results and they keep track for you. You will receive your test results back from this center. The labs will send you preliminary reports, but your official reports come from your processing center. Here is a list of centers. Some labs have arrangements with specific record centers; others may allow you to choose. http://www.quality-certification.com/certifiedproc.asp

STEP 4: Purchase and calibrate scale. You now need to choose the scale you want to go with. Your scale MUST weigh in pounds and tenths (not ounces). The lab that you chose should be able to give you a list of approved scales. Most likely they will calibrate/certify your scale for you as well. You will need to mail the scale to them, they calibrate it and add a nifty sticker on the back with the date calibrated, then they send it back to you. You will need to do this yearly as the certification is renewed annually.

STEP 5: Apply with the registry. Last thing you do now is go to your registry or registries (if using multiple) to sign your herd up and pay the appropriate fees!

Congrats! You can officially start milk testing! Now that you are a certified tester, you have your scale certified, and your lab sent you vials and paperwork, you are all set for your first test day! We will cover what to do on your first test day in the next part of the series!

** For our herd testing, we use Washington DHIA for our lab and use DRMS for our processing center. We are on the owner sampler plan and have a separate tester available for verification tests. We use a Hanson 600 Dairy scale as we liked these over the digital ones. This is not a plug for this particular lab and processing center, just an example so you see how it works.

DHIR: Dairy Herd Improvement Registry – records used by a registry.
DHIA: Dairy Herd Improvement Association
OS: Owner Sample
AR: Advanced Registry
ST: Star
VT: Verification Test