How to Start the Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) Program

By Kristie M. of landofhavilahfarm.com

reprinted here with her permission

I have my herd on ADGA’s DHIR program. I wish I would’ve started LONG ago!! It was MUCH simpler than I thought, and I wanted to encourage others to consider placing their herds on test as well. NOTE: I’m only familiar with Langston DHIA, so my answers may be specific for that lab in some cases.

When I started, I had LOTS of questions – not surprising to anyone who knows me. <grin> I’m a “Question Asker Extraordinaire”! I want to know the “who, what, where, when, why and how” about EVERYTHING! <smile> I get concerned that I drive people nuts while I’m getting things sorted out! I will try to answer those questions for you here.

Several reasons that kept me from DHIR in years past:

1. I thought I had to weigh the milk and log the info everyday. This IS NOT the case. You do not have to keep barn records in that way. You only have to test your herd ONCE every 25-45 days.

2. I thought it would be expensive to enroll. For a herd of up to 5 milking Does to be enrolled in ADGA’s DHIR program there is an annual $45 flat fee. There are no per doe fees on top of that.

3. I thought the lab fees would be expensive. NOPE! There are no enrollment fees through Langston’s DHI lab. I use Langston as both my DHIA (Dairy Herd Improvement Association) and my DRPC (Dairy Records Processing Center). My total cost per test: I send a check for $12.92 with my 4 milk samples (when all 4 of my Does are in milk) and paperwork each time I test my girls (every 25-45 days). Email Eva to get a “starter packet” at Langston_DHI@yahoo.com. Sometimes she gets behind, so just ask her again.

4. I allow my Does to raise their kids. This is NOT a problem, just pull the kids for the day of the test. I introduce my goat kids to the bottle, so they will nurse their dam AND take a bottle. I bottle feed them the day of the test. IMPORTANT: You will need to confine the kids in a pen that they have NO PRAYER of getting out of. I put mine in our old fox pen – the foxes couldn’t get out, so there is NO WAY those goat kids will escape unless someone lets them out through the door.

5. Supervisor Tester sounds VERY professional, doesn’t it?? Anyone can take the training to be your tester. As long as they are not related to you i.e. father, mother, sibling, grandfather, grandmother. They also can’t have an interest of any kind in your herd, i.e. financial, or a past purchaser of goats from your herd, etc. Have a neighbor that would be willing to be a tester? A friend that lives close by? Perfect!! See the section below explaining how to become a tester.

Steps you need to take to enter your herd onto ADGA’s DHIR program: See this link to ADGA’s page, they have done a great job outlining each step.

Let me help you fill out the ADGA Enrollment form, which is available from the same link to ADGA’s Steps for ADGA DHIR page.

Most of the first part is simple, your name, address, etc. The first place you will probably need guidance is “Date of First Expected Test”. Figure out when your first Doe is due, and figure anywhere AFTER she is 6 days fresh. If your Doe is due the first week in March, say “March”, if she is due toward the end of March, say “April”.

Type of Test: Decide whether you want to be on “Standard” or “Group” test. See “Milk Testing Types and Plans” on the ADGA website for guidance. The test I’m on is considered a “Standard Test”, but there are also “Owner Sampler” options as well. I don’t know much about them.

Test Type Plan. The test type I chose is “ITP-02 APCS”, this means “Innovative Test Plan, option 02” as I do not have a Time Monitor or a bulk tank, and I want the chance of being accepted for “Breed Leader” and “Top Ten” awards, if God blesses my herd in that fashion.

The ITP part means that I have 2 milkings during the day, but my Test Supervisor only needs to come to one of the milkings and I handle the other one by myself. On the milking I handle, no samples are taken – the milk is simply weighed and the weight is recorded on the DHI test sheet provided by Langston. At the other milking, the Supervisor samples the milk, and the milk is weighed and recorded as before.

The “APCS” (Alternate AM/PM Component Sampling) part means that the Supervisor only comes to one milking per test, but the TIME that they come is different every month – for example, the tester would come in the AM for the first test day. The NEXT test day the Supervisor comes for the PM milking. This makes it nicer for my tester, as she only comes ONCE A DAY for each milk test. This test plan option is accepted for ADGA DHIR Advanced Registry & Star Programs.

An annual herd Verification Test (aka VT) is required.

There is no time frame if you are on the ITP-02 plan (I don’t know about the others). I DO know that if you are on the AR Owner Sampler plan your VT must be done when your Does are between 60-150 fresh.

Tester information. Name of your tester, their tester ID# (put “pending” if they don’t have their # yet), and their telephone/email address.

Name of DHIA. You will get a list of DHIA choices that are recognized by ADGA in your “ADGA New Herd Application Packet” you requested from ADGA. I use Langston University as my DHIA.

DRPC. This means “Dairy Records Processing Center”. I use Langston as my DRPC.

Members of Testing Group. I’m not on Group test, so I can’t help you with this part. It appears to be fairly straight forward though.

Annual Herd Test Fee. Choose the plan that covers all your Does that you plan to freshen.

Payment info is self explanatory.

DHI Herd Code. This is the code that is assigned to your herd after your first milk test is completed and the DHIA has tested the samples that you sent in. Put “pending” if you have not been assigned a code yet.

Setting up your Herd with Langston University as your DHIA & DRPC:

I only have experience with Langston’s DHIA, so I will walk you through that. If you choose a different DHIA & DRPC, you will need to contact them directly to discover their setup procedure.

Contact Eva Vasquez at Langston DHI:
Langston University, P.O. Box 730, Langston, OK 73050, phone: 405-466-6207, email: langston_dhi@yahoo.com

She will send you a packet with the paperwork, vials, etc. that you will need for your first test.

Supervisor DHI Training:

Eva will send you a computer CD with the packet you requested (at least she did when I requested mine), however, this same training is available online on You Tube. The training is a bit outdated, as a few of the forms have been simplified, the Milk Test forms have not changed though.

NOTE: These videos and the forms that she explains are specific to Langston DHIA. Here are the links to all four parts of the training:
Langston DHI Training, part 1
Langston DHI Training, part 2
Langston DHI Training, part 3
Langston DHI Training, part 4

When you are done watching the training, you will need to take your Supervisor Test. It would be helpful if both you and your tester take the training together if they are taking it for the first time. You need to take this test each year. No worries, this is not a pass/fail test. Eva will let you know the correct information if you get the answers wrong.

Miscellaneous Info:

Verification Tester. You will need a Verification Tester that IS NOT the same person that does your regular monthly test. Find another friend or neighbor to help you out, or find another person that is already a Tester in your area that would be willing to help you with that. They will need to come to ALL 3 milkings for that test: Milkout (this sets the clock, so to speak), AM test and PM test. Milk is to be sampled and weighed at EACH MILKING (not sampled at Milkout). Some test plans require a Verification Test between 60-150 days fresh, so research your test plan to know for sure.

Sending your samples to Langston. They have a special box of 20 vials that you are supposed to send back and forth each time OVERNIGHT. This was fairly pricey. I only load the box with the filled vials (the milk samples I just took from each doe) and leave the empty vials out – no reason to mail them back and forth IMO. Then I send the box by normal Priority mail, this is more economical and the samples are fine for quite a long time.

DHIA Goats. As you venture into the DHI program, would you like support of other herds that are on test? If so, consider joining the Facebook group DHIA Goats.

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