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Serving: WI

Dairy Worker Skills Training Modules Bridge Communication Gap

More farm workers are Hispanic and don't speak English.

As dairy producers update their barns and milking facilities and add more cows to their herds they need consistent, reliable employees who have been trained in modern dairy practices. Many dairy workers working on Wisconsin farms are Latinos from Mexico and Central America and may not speak much English.

A survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Extension Dairy Team revealed a communication barrier between employer and employee. The survey found that 38 percent of dairy farmers hired translators to communicate, 24 percent used other Hispanic employees to train and 19 percent used hand signals to train and communicate to their Hispanic employees.

To assist producers and educators in the training of dairy employees, the Hispanic Labor workgroup of the UW-Extension Dairy Team developed four training modules in Spanish and English. These modules cover milking skills, reproductive skills, calf management skills, and herdsmanship skills.

The training modules were designed for individual farm trainings or group meetings. Training is generally conducted in small groups, with a teacher and translator, at an on-farm location incorporating a lecture and hands-on activities.

Teaching materials include: goals and objectives; instructions for conducting a successful training; PowerPoint presentation with voice-over in English and/or Spanish describing the importance of the skill being trained and speaker notes; handouts and fact sheets to compliment the presentation; certificates of completion; and evaluation forms.

The teaching materials are available in a 3-ring binder or on CD and can be tailored to specific training needs. In addition to the training modules, a set of 18 laminated, industry-approved calf skills protocol cards is available that can be used to supplement the Calf Management Skills module or can be used on their own. The cards are one-page summaries (English with Spanish version on the backside) outlining the proper methods for examining and caring for newborn calves, identifying sick calves and other everyday calf management skills. Another piece of the curriculum is a DVD that provides a step-by-step approach to conduct examinations of cows in the fresh pen featuring Dr. Shelia McGuirk, UW-School of Veterinary Medicine. The DVD includes information on selecting cows for examination based on behavior, calving history and observations, and conducting diagnostic tests to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

Since 2004, over 600 workers have attended trainings on milk quality, reproduction, calf care and assisting cows with calving. Evaluation results show that participants increased their skill level and knowledge.

One Wisconsin dairy producer said, "The two gentlemen I sent came home quite enthused and quoted verbatim all the things that I have been trying to teach them about calves through the years."

In addition to their use on Wisconsin dairy farms, the training modules have been used in neighboring states: Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota; and internationally in the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru.

For additional information about the Dairy Worker's Training Module Series, please contact Zen Miller, Outagamie County UW-Extension dairy and livestock agent at 920-832-5119 or at [email protected] or Tina Kohlman, Sheboygan County UW-Extension dairy and livestock agent at 920-467-5740 or [email protected].  

To order materials please visit the following website: or contact Zen Miller at (920) 832-5119.

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