Human Resource Training Modules for Dairy Producers

07:39AM Sep 04, 2014

Training modules for human resource management are available through South Dakota State University. 
By: Tracey Erickson, Dairy Field Specialist, SDSU Extension

The capacity of dairy owners and managers to be successful is dependent on their ability to effectively manage employees. With the cultural and technological landscape of today's dairy operations rapidly changing, producers must effectively educate, train, and communicate across a diverse workforce to ensure maximum efficiency. SDSU Extension has developed the Agricultural Human Resource Management Training modules to expand the skill set and ensure the continued success of dairy producers, dairy employees and the dairy support industries.

Presently, less than 1% of the population claims farming as their primary occupation in the United States (EPA Ag Center, 2013). Upon examination of the total dairy herds within the United States there has been a decline of 33% percent in a ten year period from 2003-2012 (USDA:NASS, 2013), however, the total number of milk cows has seen a 2% increase (USDA:NASS, 2014). As a result of the consolidation we have seen growth in the total number of herds with more than 500 cows and even greater growth with herds of 2,000 plus head while smaller farms with less than 500 head are exiting the business (Susanto, Rosson, Anderson, & Adcock, 2010). Susanto et al. (2010) also cites a decline in the total available workforce in agriculture which has forced many dairy producers to turn to immigrant labor, primarily of Hispanic origin.

As the SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist at South Dakota State University, I have noted the same trend in South Dakota and the upper mid-west with consolidation of herds and increased reliance upon Hispanic/Latino workers to fill the labor needs within the dairies (Erickson, 2014). Dairy owners and managers often are limited in their Spanish language fluency and cultural knowledge which limits their ability to effectively communicate with employees.

Through the utilization of these training modules, there will be improved employee relations and competencies resulting in higher employee performance and overall profitability of the dairies. In addition, due to improved communication skills and training ability of Hispanic employees a higher quality dairy product will be produced instilling consumer confidence in the dairy industry.

The training modules are designed to enhance personal knowledge about the Hispanic workforce, their culture, and best communication methods, along with teaching managers and owners about Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), utilizing a hands-on teaching method by putting people through an actual SOP that focuses on milk quality assurance best management practices. The modules include videos, offered in both English and Spanish, and a short series of questions to evaluate knowledge learned as users complete the training modules.

The online training modules are an innovative way to deliver educational resources. Historically, SDSU Extension’s ability to respond to this educational need would have been limited by geography. These modules are available 24/7 to anyone with Internet access. This product meets industry-driven challenges by delivering relevant, timely, unbiased, research-based information. The training modules are free and available to the public on iGrow.