Milk testing our goats!
(Somehow this post never got published when I wrote it last year! It has some great info, so I'm going to post it now!) Milk testing was super scary for me. I have been thinking about it for years and I decided that THIS was the year to do it (Covid or no Covid 😂). With it being Spring/Summer of 2020, I was at home and had plenty of time to ask questions and get over my feelings of intimidation.
The 1st step was choosing a lab. I have friends/mentors who use Langston so I chose to use this lab too. I will include all the information for Langston but know that this will differ from lab to lab. Once I knew what lab I was going to use, I contacted them to let them know that I intended on testing (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Next, Langston sent me a video to watch along with instructions on sending my scale to them for calibration (there was a $15 calibration fee). You can find the scale that I use here. I really like this one because it zero's out, so you don't need to do any math to find out how much of the weight is your bucket. Give yourself plenty of time to get the scale back from the lab after being calibrated, though. There is no exact science on how long it will take them to get it back to you and I have seen it take weeks and weeks.
One of the documents they send you is a supervisor test. This is for your supervisor to complete and send back to them. Your supervisor needs to be someone that can come to your farm 2 times on the day of testing and it can't be someone who has an invested interest in your herd. I chose my neighbor, Jessie, who doesn't have goats and we chose to test on her day off (she works at the hospital and her shift times would make it hard if she was working). After sending back the paperwork that they included in the email they mailed me the vials that I would be putting the milk samples into and mailing back to them on testing day. After this, it gets a little confusing. I'll be honest and tell you that I wont be using Langston again unless some major changes happen. I have heard that they have lost some employees and that this is to blame for the chaos/confusion. In order to apply for a permit to test with MDGA you need to have your tester ID. When it came time get a permit to test from MDGA (Miniature Dairy Goat Association ) I realized that I did not receive this from them. Once I asked for this, they emailed it to me. I am so thankful that MDGA was so helpful otherwise I would have been very lost in this process and probably would not have gotten it done this year. Maybe Langston will get someone in who stays and gets everything back on track. I heard that they used to be really great, so I have hopes that they will get there again!
Okay, back to testing. Once I had my calibrated scale back and the testing vials had come in the mail, Jessie (my neighbor/supervisor) and I decided on a good day to test. I was having surgery very soon so we found a date quickly so that we could test before I had to have someone else milking my goats for a few days while I was in the hospital. I knew that having someone else milk would cause some stress for my goats and stress causes a drop in milk. You want every drop of milk to count when you milk test.
The night before testing I milked the girls out and separated them from their babies. I was a little concerned that I only got a very small amount of milk from each of them but I later learned that this is normal. With the babies in their own space, the mama's would have a chance to fill their udders with milk for the morning milking! Jessie arrived at 9 am and we got to work. I brought the goats in and she sat back and stayed quiet in order to not make the goats nervous. I've heard of this being a HUGE issue with some goats. Thankfully mine are very used to chaos and visitors, so they didnt seem to mind.
I have a simple pulse milk machine (which I LOVE), so milking was easy peasy. She watched me milk them out and then we got to weighing. I have this scale and I really like it. The only downfall is that you have to weigh fast or you lose your weights.
I was so happy with our milk weights! For this milking Willow gave us 5 pounds and Ariel gave us 4.20 pounds. At this point, I filled each of their vials half way with milk from the morning milking. I left space to fill them all the way with the evening milk. This is also a good time to measure your goats with your supervisor. You don't want to forget to do that on testing day. We were off to a great start!
I decided to make my goats a quick udder cover so that they could stay with their kids. They were used to being separated at night but not during the day andI didn't want to upset them and have a drop in milk. A friend of mine sent me a photo of her goats in backwards t-shirts with a spot sewn to string their collars through and keep them on. This was a HUGE help. But these don't seem to last long, so be sure to use medical tape to tape their teats in case an over zealous kids gets in the shirt before your evening milking.
When Jessie returned for the evening milking at 9pm Willow gave us 4.30 pounds and Ariel gave us 4.40 pounds! I'm pretty sure that they gave enough to earn their stars without even testing the milk fat! But I added milk from the evening milking into the vials and got it ready to shit off the next day! I use USPS.com to mail things right from my front porch. I set it out front and got ready to wait!
It took a while to hear back from them but I guess they only test on Fridays and they were short an employee who was off to be with his wife and new baby. So I can understand things taking a little longer than usual. It was during Covid after all and they were VERY limited on when they could go into the University.
Two weeks later I got word that Langston has sent my results to MDGA! I was SO excited! Later that day I got the email from MDGA with the milk star certificates! It was then that I learned that Willow had 9.09% butterfat and Ariel had 5.50%! This was an amazing grand finale to the whole process. I am SO very pleased with their production. Especially with Ariel being a first freshener.
Here are their stats from this round of testing:
9.30 lbs of milk in 12 hours 8.60 lbs of milk in 12 hours
9.09% butterfat 5.50% butterfat
46 days after kidding 60 days after kidding
3rd freshening 1st freshening
Total: 148 points Total: 103.56 points
Looking back, this was a good process but it felt very stressful as I learned how it worked. It was very helpful to have friends who were familiar with the process- I highly recommend reaching out. If you don't have friends you can ask, there are facebook groups that can offer great support. And I highly recommend getting all of your ducks in a row in advance. Things can take a lot longer than you think! I learned this firsthand this year.