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Life is too short to eat bad food! Sharing great recipes, farm life, stories and photography from our Northern California dairy farm.

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August 24, 2010

Milk Testing & Why We Do It

We have our dairy cow's milk tested once a month through the Dairy Herd Improvement Association {DHIA}.  This is not a mandatory test, this is a management tool that some dairies choose to use.  The testing tells us how many pounds of milk each cow produces, the percentage of butter fat and the percentage of protein in the milk and also provides information on somatic cell counts on each cow. 

{This is not to be confused with the mandatory testing that occurs with each and every truck load of milk on a daily basis that tests for antibiotics}.

You may ask if this is not a mandatory test, why do we do it?

This is important to a dairy farmer because it allows us to see when a cow begins to decline in milk production and we can then move her to a different string of cows, where they are given a different feed ration. The drop in milk production is normal in the lactation cycle of a cow.   The testing will also help to identify cows that have dropped off significantly in milk production from one month to the next where we can then check to see if there might be something wrong that may have caused the drop off in milk production.

This information is really important to document on a national scale.  It provides information for bull studs.  For instance, if a particular bull has sired many daughters that produce a high volume of milk, a dairy farmer may then choose to purchase semen from that same bull to artificially inseminate one or many of the cows in his herd.

There are numerous reports that can be utilized by using the DHIA Plus program, I've only mentioned a few  of them.

Here is the rack of samples from each individual cow taken at our last testing this past Friday.

Alex, our 'tester' has been testing herds for the past 50 years.

After taking a sample, the milk weight is entered into the computer, which then goes to a data processing center located in Provo, Utah.  Our cows are milked twice in a 24 hour period and Alex tests at both milkings within that 24 hours, once a month.

Happy Tuesday!
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Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

Nancy- this is so interesting- I LOVE posts like these- because I have never heard of it and you add photos so that I understand what you are writing about-

AND your photos have a great artistic flare/good eye.

Happy to understand what the process is, when it is done right!

Pat Tillett said...

This is the stuff that first drew me to your blog. You already know about my granddads line of work. I never really understood any of the technical parts of a dairy. Even though we visited a lot of them. I like all of your posts, but these are so interesting to me.
I asked my granddaughter where the magnets were, she said she keeps them in one of her dresser drawers... thanks again for them!

Genesis said...

wow, very interesting post. i learn something new each day...

Unknown said...

I enjoyed your posting. I too am like Alex, having worked as a DHIA Technician for 37 years. My father, grandfather and my son have all been in this business for many years.
Dairymen that participate in the DHIA program tend to produce higher quality milk and are more efficient in their business. Dairy farming is much more complex than most people realize and DHIA provides the management tools to make more accurate decisions each day. Keep up the good work!

Katie said...

Nancy, you are doing a great job at explaining and simply showing how dairy farmers work daily to take care for their animals and produce the safest possible milk supply. I am a big fan of your blog and thank you also for being my most loyal commenter on my blog!