After a successful implementation of the new training system in Idaho, the IDA is working with the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) to spread it across the country. It will be incorporated into the existing National FARM Program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management), managed by NMPF.
The FARM program is billed as a “nationwide initiative with rigorous guidelines to ensure the highest possible quality on US dairy farms.” It already specializes in areas like animal care and environmental and antibiotic stewardship, while the IDA will add a safety manual resource for dairy producers and more worker-focused training.
The IDA lists the most important pillars of its program:
- General safety awareness around the dairy
- Understanding animal behavior and safe animal handling
- Understanding safety regulations and record keeping for management
- Promoting personal safety and proactive measures to prevent injury
Ryan DeWitt of the IDA said, "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."
Preparing for a technical future
The IDA developed its program with New Mexico State University dairy extension specialist Dr Robert Hagevoort and University of Texas School of Public Health associate professor Dr David Douphrate.
"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."
Dairy farm employees in Idaho have been represented in the development of the program, offering feedback on the safety manual from a worker’s perspective. The original program is available in both Spanish and English, done in person but also provided on iPads to accommodate individual learning pace.
Rick Naerebout, CEO of IDA, said, "One accident on a farm is one too many. 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."