Using DHIA testing to make better culling decisions

Posted on April 15, 2020 in Dairy Goat Performance
By Sarah Adamson

Keeping comprehensive records is important for any business to grow and thrive, and dairy goat farms are no different.  The Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) is a great way to keep individual milk records on each of your does.

Randy Adamson from Marran Dairy in Milton, Wisconsin, uses DHIA testing and said, “Testing is not about big records, or who is milking the most.  Testing is about finding out who’s not milking enough.”

Whether you test your herd regularly, quarterly or unofficially, DHIA testing can bring great value to your farm. Most importantly, it allows you to make sure you’re only keeping does on the farm that milk enough to meet your production and bottom-line goals.  Keeping poor-performing does only limits your success and profitability.

For example, it’s easy to distinguish between a doe producing 8 pounds of milk and a doe producing 4 pounds of milk.  However, if your milk production breakeven is 4.5 pounds, it becomes much harder to tell the difference between a 4-pound producer and a 5-pound producer.  If you only keep does that milk above your breakeven, you become much more profitable.

Think about it this way: If you had 150 employees and 145 of them were pulling their weight and getting the job done while five sat in the breakroom all day, you wouldn’t keep the five underachieving employees around just because the factory was still running.

DHIA testing is also one of the fastest ways to improve your herd because it provides accurate milk weights, monthly averages and 305-day projected milk production for every doe.  When Adamson started commercially milking goats in 2009, he used DHIA testing to cull any doe that had a 305-day projection under 1,200 pounds.  Now his goal is to cull any yearlings with a 305-day projection under 1,600 pounds and all mature does under 2,000 pounds.  Additionally, Adamson has been able to continuously improve his herd’s performance using DHIA testing by culling the bottom 20% of his milking herd each year and only keeping replacement doelings from the top half of his herd.

You can also keep better data and records on your bucks with DHIA testing.  Specifically, it can help guarantee you’re keeping young herd sires that will improve your herd’s genetics and milk production, as well as help provide milk production records behind bucks you hope to sell to other producers.  Whether you are buying a new herd sire or trying to decide which of your own to keep, having milk records can help make that decision much easier.  It can also help decide if your mature bucks are passing along the desired traits to their offspring.  Remember, bucks are half of your genetic pool and just as important in herd improvement as the does.

DHIA testing can be a very beneficial management tool when used on farm, and the financial advantages it can help you obtain on your farm can easily offset the upfront cost of the process.  Contact your Vita Plus consultant to learn more about how DHIA testing can help you reach your production goals.

About the author:  Sarah Adamson grew up on her family’s commercial dairy goat farm in southern Wisconsin.  She attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and received her bachelor’s degree in animal science, with an emphasis on dairy science.  Adamson spent time as a manager on an 8,000-head dairy goat farm before joining Vita Plus in 2018.  As the Vita Plus dairy goat specialist, Adamson is responsible for product development for the entire dairy goat program as well as technical support for field staff in the Vita Plus market area.

Category: Dairy Goat Performance
Milk production and components
Technology and data management