TWIN FALLS — Idaho dairy farmers are pioneering a new program to educate and train employees on workplace safety and awareness on the job.

Ryan DeWit joined the Idaho Dairymen’s Association in 2017 to develop and implement an on-farm training program dairy farm owners can apply with their employees.

The training, which is done in person in Spanish or English, is provided on iPads to provide individual pace and learning.

“This training program is meant to give employees knowledge and information to help them not only do their jobs in a safe way, but to identify possible safety issues and address them proactively,” DeWit said.

Some of the key elements of the training program include:

n General safety awareness around the dairy.

n Understanding animal behavior and safe animal handling.

n Understanding safety regulations and record keeping for management.

n Promoting personal safety and proactive measures to prevent injury.

The program was developed in collaboration with New Mexico State University Dairy Extension specialist Dr. Robert Hagevoort and University of Texas School of Public Health associate professor Dr. David Douphrate. Hagevoort founded the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium, which The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recently honored with a U.S. Dairy Sustainability Honorable Mention Award. The awards recognize outstanding dairy farms, businesses and partnerships for socially responsible, economically viable and environmentally sound practices.

“From a sustainability perspective, we need to adequately educate, train and prepare our future dairy owners, managers and workers in order for this industry to become even better at what it already does,” Hagevoort said. “The industry needs a sustainable and more technically prepared workforce, because agriculture and dairying are no exception and are becoming increasingly technical and computerized. We now have robotic milking and feeding systems, electronic IDs and monitoring systems for cows.”

The National Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Program has partnered with IDA to create a safety manual resource for dairy producers across the country. FARM is a program managed by the National Milk Producers Federation based in Washington, D.C. The FARM program is a nationwide initiative with rigorous guidelines to ensure the highest possible quality on U.S. dairy farms. The workforce development program is the latest addition to the already established areas of focus covering animal care, environmental and antibiotic stewardship.

Recently, NMPF created a video (https://vimeo.com/305136234/5d97240aec) that features the worker safety and training program as it was implemented on Moo-Riah Dairy in Melba.

The safety portion of the FARM program offers voluntary guidance materials and tools for how farms can further cultivate and demonstrate continuous commitment to on-farm safety. For the safety portion of the initiative, FARM is collaborating with the Idaho Dairymen’s Association to develop best-in-class safety resources for dairy farm owners and managers. IDA’s Dairy Worker Training & Safety Program has an oversight board that includes representation from dairy farm employees to provide the worker perspective into the development of the safety manual and all other aspects of the program.

“One accident on a farm is one too many,” Idaho Dairymen’s Association CEO Rick Naerebout said. “We strongly believe this program will give dairy owners and their employees the knowledge and awareness to take proactive steps to reduce the likelihood of an injury and give consumers confidence their food is being produced in a responsible way by dairy farmers who care about their employees and their animals.”

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