Each year, we do either a 305-day milk production test or a one-day milk production test to see if the Bramblestone Farm Nigerian Dwarf does (that don’t yet have milking star designations) can earn their milking stars with the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) and the American Goat Society (AGS).
These milk production tests are a way of demonstrating that the does on our farm are excellent milk producers and that their offspring are likely to be great milk producers too.
Two Does Earn Milk Production Awards!
This year, we’re happy to announce that both Bramblestone Pal Chai Tea and Bramblestone Sun Tea produced the required quantity and quality of milk to earn their milking stars with both ADGA and AGS. This makes Chai Tea’s name become 4*M Bramblestone Pal Chai Tea 4*D. Here’s a recent photo of Chai:
Sun Tea’s name becomes 4*D Bramblestone Sun Tea 4*D. Here’s a recent photo of Sun:
Chai and Sun are half-sisters out of the same dam – 3*M AR SG Old Mountain Farm Hot Tea 3*D. Since Hot Tea earned her milking stars and was a 3rd generation star milker, that makes both Chai and Sun 4th generation star milkers!
Earning Advanced Registry (AR) Milking Stars
The 305-day test is more comprehensive because it provides much more information and shows that a doe can maintain a high milk production rate for a standard lactation period (305 days). It’s also much more costly and time-consuming to perform. Therefore, we only do the 305-day test when we have a larger group of does that we would like to get their 305-day AR (advanced registry) stars.
The AR star is earned by a doe when the herd goes on official DHI (Dairy Herd Improvement) milk test and the doe produces the required amount of milk. There are variations in program requirements, but basically, someone weighs and takes samples of the milk from each doe in the herd once a month, and that data is sent to the USDA.
A standard lactation is considered to be 305 days, and if the doe meets the production requirements for her age in 305 days or less, then she earns her AR milk star. Both ADGA and AGS have DHI programs, and each has differing production requirements.
Earning One-Day Test Milking Stars
In the years that we’re not doing the 305-day test, we usually do a one-day milk production test. If the does can produce enough in a one day test to earn their milking stars, it also demonstrates that they produce a high quantity & quality of milk; however, it doesn’t provide any information on how long they can maintain that production.
This doesn’t concern us too much anymore because we’ve been working with the same bloodlines now for many years and know that they will continue to produce well for a standard 305-day lactation period. But it’s not easy for young does to earn their milking stars on a one-day test, because unlike the 305-day test, there is no component in the calculation that accounts for a does age. So, young does have a much harder time earning their milking stars on the one-day test.
Why Participate In Milk Production Testing?
A lot of time, effort, and expense are involved in going on milk production testing, but it’s one of the only ways to get data to make good management decisions and improve the herd. There’s a lot of information in the reports (big cow dairy herds have used them for years) and some of the things we’ll be using them for are:
- Learn how different feeding practices correlate with milk production (i.e. does more grain or more alfalfa increase milk production, do different grain rations have an impact, etc.).
- Learn which doe lines produce the most milk, butterfat, and protein.
- Increase the value of kids from dams who have earned their star designations.
- Monitor the somatic cell count for each goat to ensure we’re producing the highest quality milk.
By combining the information from milk production testing with the information from linear appraisal (see Dairy Goat Linear Appraisal), we can also make breeding and sale decisions based on milk production, milk content and dairy conformation.
The Nigerian Dwarf goat breed is relatively young (recognized in the first registry as a breed starting in 1981), and one of the things I find most fascinating is how much the breed has improved (in dairy terms) in a relatively short time. It’s because of the work of careful and informed breeders, and we want to continue that process of continuous breed improvement with the Bramblestone herd. Milk production testing is one of several important tools for documenting the performance of does and achieving herd improvement.