Training Salon Staff Is The First Step In Mastitis Prevention | Main edition
Parlor staff play a vital role in preventing mastitis in dairy cows.
Our staff are not only responsible for properly milking cows, but also for detecting mastitis as early as possible in order to provide fast and accurate treatment.
The first thing to consider when training farm staff is communication. About 50% of the farm staff working on dairy farms in the United States were foreign-born, and Spanish is the mother tongue of 81% of them.
One of the most common issues faced by dairy farmers who have Spanish speaking employees is the language barrier.
Although rare, there are different resources that farmers can use to solve this problem, such as hiring a translator or a bilingual employee.
At Penn State Extension, extensive work is underway to increase our educational portfolio in Spanish and provide more resources in Spanish for dairy farmers and their employees.
However, language is not the only reason for the lack of communication. In an ongoing study, we found that the # 1 improvement in agricultural human resource management recommended by participants was improved communication with their managers, regardless of employee nationality or language.
To ensure that training information is conveyed well, we need to review the training methods that work best for the public of farm workers.
It has been reported that only 60% of dairy farms in the United States provide training for their staff. Of these 60%, 41% of farmers have provided oral presentation training, while only 12% provide training using interactive teaching methods, such as educational videos.
While any type of training (on-the-job, lecture or a combination of both) is beneficial, a combination of oral presentations and hands-on demonstrations has been shown to significantly increase the knowledge and skills of farm workers.
In one of our studies, we found that employees trained using oral presentations and hands-on demonstrations had a knowledge gain of 23.7%. Additionally, the use of visual aids such as videos and images is a great practice to increase understanding and communication of work practices.
To prevent mastitis, staff must be trained not only on how to perform pen and milking practices, but also on the “why” behind these practices. In doing so, staff will be able to understand the reasons for these practices and the consequences of not following protocols.
As mentioned in our previous articles, contagious mastitis is transmitted from quarter to quarter or from cow to cow by an external factor such as the hands of the milker. Therefore, milking practices related to the diagnosis and milking of mastitic cows are essential to prevent this disease.
Teat removal is essential to accurately identify mastitis and prevent the transmission of contagious mastitis to other quarters or cows. Often times, this practice is done too quickly and without really looking at the milk being extracted.
When training staff, it should be emphasized that each teat should be skinned at least three to four times to not only provide good stimulation of milk flow, but also to ensure that there is sufficient milk on the field to assess conformation changes in this Le Lait.
Another important area for training milking personnel is the management of cows that have been diagnosed with mastitis.
One practice that can be very common in modern dairy farming these days, but worth mentioning, is that employees should always wear gloves while milking cows.
One of the main reasons for this, in addition to employee safety, is that the smooth surface of the gloves allows for faster and better cleaning of gloved hands after a mastitis quarter is diagnosed.
Employees should understand that after touching a mastitis quarter, they cannot touch any other quarter until they wash their hands thoroughly. Ideally, employees wash their hands first with water and then with the pre-soak solution.
In operations with high incidence of contagious mastitis and problems with employee training, it may be recommended to train milking staff to change gloves after finding a quarter with mastitis. This practice is simple and easy to understand and communicate, and it can be implemented in the short term.
Employees should be trained on other practices such as how to milk mastitis quarters, how to communicate mastitis cases to their manager, and where to move these cows after milking. Whatever practices are implemented, protocols should be simple, easy to understand and accessible (including being translated into the language that best suits your employees).