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Milk Testing 101 (with pH ! )

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  • Milk Testing 101 (with pH ! )

    Have had a couple of requests for this again, it doesn't appear to be in the archives... so...

    Milk Testing 101:
    Step #1: Get milk. Not so easy. You must convince mare, once she has sufficient udder, to 'let down.' Think foreplay. Massage, a little baby oil can help, warm wet washcloth... then some poking, like a little baybe nose would do. Next, strip out a bit of milk. First squirt or two goes nowhere, it's not accurate. You need only about 2 good squirts, or way too many itty bitty squirts. Collection container can be a nifty little plastic cup like
    a Nyquil cup, or, (my favorite) a shot glass. Shot glass cleans easier, and somehow, seems more appropriate.

    Step #2: Observe. First milk will be like water. You don't even have to waste a strip on this. next will look like Pee. Clear but yellow in color. This is often preceded by a very thick, sticky, clear stuff. Dunno what that is. Won't test, don't bother wasting a strip unless you are *reeeeealy* anxious. I know you're tempted since this is the first sign of 'change' and is sticky... o.k., go ahead, try it. I'm right.

    Next will change to lemonade. That's when you start testing. Next will be lemonadey, but with tiny, tiny flecks of white. closer still... Final change will be to cloudy/grey/bluish. If you're brave, taste a drop or two. Early milk will be salty. When she gets close, it will be sweet, or to me, 'rich' like the taste of cream (which I don't think has so much a taste as a 'texture' or aftertaste.)
    Stickyness is worth noting too. Early, early stuff--the clear, thick goo is sticky, but later, when the milk dries on your fingers, if it's sticky and flakes like sugar water drying--you're closer.

    Step #3: Testing Equipment and procedures. You may buy the "Mare Foal Predictor Kit" (Jeffers is cheapest I've found, 1-800-Jeffers) which makes you feel like Beakman (luved that show!) and is pretty user friendly, or the Chemetircs "Titrets" (just the name makes me laugh! punch... ) which are also supposedly user friendly. (Haven't ever braved them, so this post only applies to 'strip' tests.) OR, you can build your own kit for about $20 LESS than either of the above by buying Water Hardness test strips. Best brand I've found is "AquaChek" which tests calcium only. A local pool shop was able to order these and have them in 2 days for me.

    EVEN BETTER are Hot Tub strips. Four-or-five-way strips which test calcium, pH and some other stuff that mares really don't care about. I use "Baqua Spa" and "Soft Soak". Both are made for Bromine-Free, Chlorine Free Spas & Hot Tubs. Readily available, cheaper than the Aqua check (which is weird, since they have 4 in 1 tests) AND have the added entertainment value of pH testing. Brand isn't important, what you're looking for is a test that measure Calcium as CaCO3 in Parts Per Million (ppm) from 100-500 at least. As I said, a pH test is bonus fun.

    -You also need some type of small (5cc) test tube or larger than 3cc syringe with cap, a 3cc Syringe, a 1cc syringe (insulin syringes are perfect) and, the magic potion: DISTILLED WATER. This is the secret "testing solution" in the commercial kits. The key is it has no inherent minerals, so the test is accurate.

    -Ratio for testing is 6 to 1, or 3 to 1/2. For me, all I can ever get early on is 1/2 cc of milk, so I use 3cc of distilled h20 to 1/2 cc of milk. Mix 'em together, WELL in mini-test tube or syringe.

    -Dip strip for one second. Do NOT shake off if it's the spa test strips. DO if it's the others. (i.e. follow the directions for the particular strip)

    Step #4 Time, observe and bang head against wall... The calcium only strips show changes in 15 seconds. pH at 30. The mare strips are supposed to be checked at 1 minute, but if you see earlier changes, that's good, and part of how you figure how close you are.

    Step #5 Interpreting results:
    Calcium: Less than 100 ppm, you can go 2 days before rechecking unless you notice other, significant changes. Above 100ppm, but less than 200 ppm, check daily, in the evening. Once you hit 200 ppm, you've GOT MILK. 90% of mares will foal within 24-48 hours. Over 500 ppm, camp out in the stall, here we goooooo....

    On the mare strips, 1-3 squares in a minute, 2 days before next check. A FAST three though, recheck daily. 4, something like 80% chance in 24, 5, within 12 hours. a FAST 4 or 5 and buckle in, we're off...

    pH: Found out by accident when I couldn't get my regular calcium strips how useful this is. You CAN test pH, and it's actually a very reliable and easy indicator! pH will be well over 7 up until you've got Colostrum (over 8.4, the "high" test on the spa strips) When you get colostrum, pH will drop to below 7. The information I found is when it gets below 7, you're within a few hours. This second measure is INVALUABLE test could be helpful for a mare who has a high calcium count for a couple of days. The pH will not drop until just before foaling. She WILL GO within 6-24 hours.

    **adding** the pH is a DRAMATIC change. All the strips I've used have been 'fuschia'' color at the high end, and yellow at the low. When the milk has changed, it stays VERY yellow. BUTTER yellow. Below 6.8, off the charts low. I know it's exciting when it is peachy, and that means things *are* changing... but you still could have a day or two to go--for me it means testing at least every 8-10 hrs. once I see it start to drop.

    Finally, it's really, really obvious in the test tube with the water what you've got. After doing this a few dozen times, I've noticed the milk that is real MILK, i.e., close, stays in suspension. With just half-a cc in the tube, the entire sample looks cloudy, like you put water in a not-rinsed-milk-glass. It STAYS this way. Earlier samples settle and need to be reshook. In the end, all the evidence leading up to dipping the strip tells me my answer, I just like the empirical evidence to justify booking out of work.

    Obviously you have to take in these results with an eye towards other signs like dialation/elongation of the vulva (we really can't 'see' dilation, but some folks refur to the vulva changes as such,) softening of the tail head etc. And the standard disclaimer about maidens apply: they break all the rules, so don't RELY on any signs at all.

    Happy midwifing!
    Last edited by pintopiaffe; Feb. 27, 2009, 04:20 PM. Reason: typuh-ohs, format & speeling since this was bumped!
    InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

    Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)

  • #2
    Are you kidding me?? That testing solution I'm mixing with Momma Fluid is just DISTILLED WATER??? And here I am, being ever so careful not to spill a drop, cringing when I go over "the line" and have to dump a mL out....


    • #3
      Last edited by chrissymack; Mar. 27, 2008, 02:12 PM. Reason: Whoops...double post


      • #4
        Great Post!

        I added it to my breeding/foaling binder. We're just at the water stage right now with lots of time to go. I'm armed with a Chematrics kit and my boyfriend brought me home some PH strips since he says I have OCD.
        Last edited by FLIPPED HER HALO; Mar. 27, 2008, 01:38 PM.
        Cloverfox Stables


        • #5
          I was *just* about to post asking about the visual changes in the milk!

          This makes me feel better, as my mare has gone from pee to lemonade, and it tastes slightly salty AND sweet, but really just bland. I am getting very impatient to meet this little baby.


          • #6
            No worries on not answering me quickly PP, as we still have NO baby. I tested the pH yesterday with straight milk, I'll do it today with the magic solution (which I didn't know was distilled water either!)

            I do notice all the sudden she has more room for food and is cleaning up everything, maybe the baby has shifted up? And yep, she's a maiden of course. Thank you so much!
            We're spending our money on horses and bourbon. The rest we're just wasting.


            • #7
              Thank you pintopiaffe! Great post and perfect timing...we are watching a mare that is close now and I think we will try the spa strips.
              Blacktree Farm
              Lessons, Training & Sporthorse Sales.
              Blacktree Studio
              Graphic Design, Web Design & Photography.


              • #8
                Jaeme, thanks for posting this! I have been reading & saving your pH posts for years, but never got around to doing the test. I may just have to do them this year.


                • #9
                  Thankyou for posting this again. I had it saved from last year. I tested the ph on my Arab mare one afternoon (first time trying it) and she was a 6.8, so I camped out with her and she foaled that night, made me a believer! I'm looking forward to trying it again with my mares this year.


                  • #10
                    pintopiaffe - You ROCK! And so timely. Thank you! Adding it to the breeding binder.


                    • #11
                      Just for the record, after reading this (watching one right now that's at 330 days), I went to Walmart and was able to find some aquarium strips that do 4 tests, 2 of which are calcium (hardness) and pH, for $10! They seem to be working like a charm! So, that might be easier than trying to find a pool shop, etc.

                      Thanks so much for this helpful info. I've done the P-A-F strips for years but this will be the first time watching pH. Mostly the P-A-F strips have been right, but last year we had one mare at 5 squares for 3 days. I am sure had I been testing pH it would have gotten me just a bit closer to the true time. But, they have been reliable overall! I personally like to see numbers so these new tests feed that fix.

                      Thanks again!
                      Signature Sporthorses


                      • #12
                        Thanks for reposting this info. I'm "trialing" some pool strips along with my Chemetrics this year on a mare that I just can't quite figure out.
                        Family Partners Welsh Ponies - Home of Section B Welsh stallion *Wedderlie Mardi Gras LOM/AOE http://www.welshponies.com
                        Click here to buy: A Guide To In Hand Showing of Your Welsh Pony


                        • #13
                          So.... just tested mare #2 using Chemetrics and the strips. Unexpected results. She still has pretty yellow milk, but it tested at 225 with Chemetrics. With the spa strip, however, she's between a 200 and 400 on the calcium, but a 6.8 on the pH -- dead on match!

                          This will be interesting!!!
                          Family Partners Welsh Ponies - Home of Section B Welsh stallion *Wedderlie Mardi Gras LOM/AOE http://www.welshponies.com
                          Click here to buy: A Guide To In Hand Showing of Your Welsh Pony


                          • Original Poster

                            My next project will be to do the same experiment for myself--so PLEASE lemme know how yours goes... I used the Mare Foal Predictor kit exclusively until I discovered pH. I loved it--but did have more than a couple 'three nights of fast five' kind of results.

                            The pH has narrowed it down dramatically.

                            Everyone here really prefers Chemetrics, which I have not tried. I can't see how it can be as simple or accurate as the 2 way test (calcium and pH) though perhaps it is!

                            What I LOVE about the Spa strips is it's usually $10-12 for a bottle of FIFTY. I am fussy enough... anal enough... that when we are really close I might be checking up to 3x in 24 hours. I might dip two strips at a test to be SURE that's what it REALLY read. The price difference is pretty dramatic.

                            BUT, I'll shell out for the Chemetrics even though it seems more complicated to me, if it is TRULY more accurate.

                            I don't know how I did this before milk tests... I sure as heck lost a LOT more sleep. Three weeks in one barn in early June in Maine--it SNOWED one night. Three weeks in a semi-heated tackroom (space heater when I was there) in NOVEMBER in Maine...

                            Now I loose a night of work, two tops depening on when she delivers. I loose VERY little sleep, usually have the camera going for a week or two, but I don't even set the alarm for checks until we hit 200ppm. MUCH better for sleeping.
                            InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

                            Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


                            • #15
                              Is the ratio for the foal kits the same as for the pool strips, 1:6? That way I can use all the stuff that came with the kits and test for Ph too if I pick up some strips. I got the PAF kit, but I don't think it specifically said what the ratio was, just had a line on the tube to fill to. I haven't gotten the chemetrics yet.


                              • #16
                                We have a mare who has been steadily climbing in the calcium department and last night was closing in on about 200ppm (using pool strips - I have two kinds, neither of which has a 200 mark, but one has 150 and one has 250, and she is above 150 but not 250).

                                This is the first time we have used these, as we used to use Predict-A-Foal. Does anyone have any clue how many "squares" 200pm would equal on the PAF tests? I am having hard time knowing when to get really excited! We are watching the pH and it is still about 8.0 and has been for a week. So, we're waiting for that to drop as a big hint, but if we are at close to 200ppm, how much longer do you think it might be until the pH drops? I really wish I knew how many squares we are, too!

                                The mare is at 335 days, two previous foals at 341 and 347 respectively. Thanks for any experience insight!
                                Signature Sporthorses


                                • Original Poster

                                  Yes, it's 1:6 or .5:3 (.5 to 3 is actually what the Mare Foal Predictor kit is) for pool or spa strips.

                                  Signature, what I find is the calcium rises fairly dramatically, will show 400-500 ppm when we are *going*. The pH will drop to below 6.8.

                                  Just as with the strips with the squares, you will notice it changes much more quickly--you don't have to wait the full time (whether that's 15 seconds or 45 seconds--per your brand) to see the change. You'll dip, and there will be noticeable change.

                                  You'll actually know when you strip the milk out. It will look like skim milk. It will dry in fine flakes/film on your fingers. It will stick to the inside of the glass or test tube (like milk in a glass). It will stay in suspension more readily and longer.

                                  And then you'll dip and get a fairly dramatic change in the calcium, and a nice low pH, and you'll gather the snacks and reading material and warm socks and foaling kit.
                                  InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

                                  Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


                                  • #18
                                    For interests sake.... I just tested her again.

                                    Chemetrics: 350
                                    Strip Calcium: more than 400, not as much as 1000 (there is nothing in between on my chart)
                                    pH: lowest it shows -- 6.4 -- it's an exact match

                                    Her bag is bigger. Still no wax. Milk is mikier and sweet. I bet she goes today during the day. Her first foal was born at 3 pm. I can't remember what time foal 2 was born, but this is #3 for her. I can't wait!!
                                    Family Partners Welsh Ponies - Home of Section B Welsh stallion *Wedderlie Mardi Gras LOM/AOE http://www.welshponies.com
                                    Click here to buy: A Guide To In Hand Showing of Your Welsh Pony


                                    • #19
                                      Pintopiaffe, thanks for taking the time to explain this so well. I've never tested milk, but based on this excellent information decided to try it and see for myself.


                                      • #20
                                        I really am liking doing the two of them together. I especially like the pH trick. However, what I don't like about the strips is the huge range between, say, 200 and 400. Though I am watching pretty close once they hit 200 anyway....

                                        But I do have a stuning new filly toddling around my foaling stall -- and that's the best part of the whole testing process!!!!
                                        Family Partners Welsh Ponies - Home of Section B Welsh stallion *Wedderlie Mardi Gras LOM/AOE http://www.welshponies.com
                                        Click here to buy: A Guide To In Hand Showing of Your Welsh Pony