August 2006 // Volume 44 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW2

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Milking and Calf Care Schools for Hispanics in Cache County

Dairy producers hire employees to handle the daily demands of the business. Many employees are Hispanic, with limited experience working with dairy cattle. A quarterly Milking School has been organized to train Hispanic workers. Participation has increased with each seminar. Handouts and videos are available in English and Spanish. An Extension Dairy Specialist, who speaks fluent Spanish, serves as translator. Training at the university milking parlor demonstrates proper milking procedures and shows ways to respond to potential problems. At the conclusion of the training, students enjoy a meal and receive a Certificate of Participation entitling them to free English classes.

Clark E. Israelsen
Associate Professor
Utah State University Extension
Logan, Utah

Allen J. Young
Associate Professor & Extension Dairy Specialist
Utah State University
Logan, Utah

Ronald L. Boman
Associate Professor & Extension Diary Specialist
Utah State University
Logan, Utah


The Hispanic population in Utah continues to be the fastest growing ethnic group in the state. Utah's new ethnic population brings issues with which traditional communities must cope. Education is foremost among these issues, as immigrating families often arrive with little or no English language skills. In many cases, they may not be fully literate in their native Spanish language.

Once here, with laws requiring school attendance, the Hispanic population is often educationally handicapped because they must compete with native students in traditional public education settings. Until communities have adequate educational programs to help immigrating families transition smoothly into the English-speaking world, problems stemming from misunderstanding, poor communication, and a lack of marketable skills will continue to exist. This may lead to frustration, loss of self-worth, and anti-social behavior.

Need for a Milking, Calf Care School

Cache County, located in Northern Utah, is the leading dairy county in the state, with approximately 25,000 dairy cows on 150 farms. Several support industries, such as equipment dealers and milk processing plants, depend entirely on the success of local dairies. Most local dairy farms employ hired labor to keep up with the daily and seasonal demands of the business. The majority of these farm employees speak Spanish, and many come with limited experience in working with dairy cattle. Employers and employees are limited in their ability to communicate with each other since neither speaks the other's language. Most milk producers lack the patience, time, teaching tools or communication skills necessary to make certain their Spanish employees know why they need to follow specific operating procedures.

Program Purpose and Objectives

The first goal of the Milking and Calf Care School is to help Hispanic dairy farm workers feel appreciated and understood. A second objective is to help the milkers develop an understanding of what is involved in producing quality milk and understand why following specific procedures is vital to quality milk production. Because every dairy farm requires slightly different procedures, our focus has been on the "why" of proper procedures instead of simply the "how." A final objective of the school is to reduce dairy calf mortality and enhance net farm profits.

Program Design and Delivery

Utah State University Extension, in cooperation with The English Language Center and guidance from our local Latino Advisory Committee, organized a quarterly school on Proper Milking Procedures and Dairy Calf Care. With a mailing to all dairy producers and personal contacts, employers are invited to send Hispanic dairy workers to the school. The mailing includes an invitation, written in Spanish, to pass on to the workers.

All classes are held at the University Dairy and include examining equipment, demonstrating proper milking procedures, and showing appropriate ways to respond to potential problems. Teaching materials have been translated into Spanish, with English versions available to employers. A video showing cows, equipment, workers, and very specific steps demonstrating proper milking procedures is also in Spanish. A Spanish-speaking Extension Dairy Specialist serves as translator and helps respond to questions and generate discussion. Interaction between students and instructors is encouraged. Most students are eager to learn and courteous, but speak very little with each other. At the conclusion of the training, all students receive a Certificate of Participation. The 3-hour training session begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m.

Results and Evaluation

Employers and employees were initially hesitant about participating in the training. Participation has increased with each seminar as learners have come to understand our willingness to help them be more successful in employment, and employers are seeing evidence of increased milk production and milk quality with trained workers.

Three months after the training, employers and employees were invited to respond to a three-question follow-up survey. On a ranking of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent, the results are as follows.


  1. Have you observed any positive changes in employee attitude or performance since attendance at the Hispanic Milking/Dairy Calf School? Average score was 4.9.

  2. Was the training appropriate and did it enhance the profitability of your dairy? Average score was 4.7.

  3. Would you be willing to send your employees back for additional training? Average score was 4.7.


  1. How much did you benefit from the training provided at the Hispanic Milking/Dairy Calf School? Average score was 4.8.

  2. What is the likelihood of your attendance at future training sessions? Average score was 4.9.

  3. Did the training help you understand why it is important to follow specific procedures on a dairy farm? Average score was 5.0.

All participants receive a Certificate of Participation at the end of the classes. We learned that these training certificates had great meaning to the Hispanic employees. For some, it was the first certificate they had ever received. Most have hung their certificates in a prominent location in their homes.

This certificate also entitles participants to free English As A Second Language classes at the English Language Center. The majority of our participants have enrolled in English classes because of a shared grant USU Extension has with the English Language Center.

Funding for these quarterly schools has been provided by Central Administration of Utah State University Extension.

Potential Future Plans

Recent census figures confirm that the Hispanic population is continuing to grow, and it is an underserved population. We will continue to enhance our existing programs and likely add additional segments with feedback from our Latino Advisory Committee as well as the Dairy Advisory Committee.