The number of dairy farms in Pennsylvania has been declining in recent years, yet the size of farms has been rapidly increasing. Dairy farms need laborers to expand their herd size, and Hispanic labor has become the primary source for growing dairies. Many dairy farms face the challenge of finding enough workers willing to fill entry-level jobs in local communities. Hispanic dairy workers tend to be employed by the largest dairies; their greatest influence has been in the southern and western parts of the United States. In the last 12 years, the northeast has seen a dramatically growing population of Hispanic employees. Hispanic employees are willing to work long hours to get the job done and are also very dependable. Many Hispanic employees are living in local communities, yet are not able to speak English. Producers are not able to train Spanish-speaking employees properly due to the language barrier, but employees are willing to learn new procedures on the farm and are eager to answer the question of "why" these procedures take place.
The problem of communication is important because many farm owners are not dealing with the day-to-day treatment of animals. Farm employees are relied upon to handle tasks so that time can be focused on management. How does the dairy owner ensure that his/her employees know how to handle day-to-day situations? Proper training of protocols and practices are needed for each employee. Employees want to do a good job, but often are not properly educated about what is expected of them or why practices are important. The majority of Hispanic employees speak little to no English. Communication makes training of Hispanic employees very difficult.
Research in New York by Maloney and Grusenmeyer (2003) indicated that during a one-year period producers experienced a $5,000 to $12,000 financial return from employees being trained properly. This return came in the form of reduced employee turnover, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism of employees, increased product quality, decreased labor expenses, and increased worker reliability.
Pennsylvania is experiencing growth within the dairy industry in both numbers of farms and milk production. Milk production and profitability on a dairy farm are directly affected by somatic cell count (SCC). Somatic cell count is the measurement of infection in the udder. Infections increase scar tissue and decrease milk production. The current average SCC for Pennsylvania dairies is 265,840. The national SCC average on dairies is 228,000.
Often milk quality problems on a dairy can be linked back to prepping procedure and unit handling. If employees are not prepping or handling cows correctly and causing injury to the teat ends, farms will experience a higher rate of SCC and contagious mastitis spread. These issues are often easily corrected by training employees. How do producers train someone properly when communication gets in the way?
Penn State Extension Dairy Team is currently offering custom Hispanic training in milk quality. These programs are taught in Spanish and designed around what the farm needs to help improve worker knowledge. In turn, producers will see an increase in milk quality and their bottom line. If you are interested in learning more about these trainings or have suggestions for other types of Hispanic trainings, please contact Amber Yutzy.