Latino/Hispanic Workers on Dairy Farms

Larry Tranel, Dairy Field Specialist, Northeast

Issue Identified
Dairy producers have identified profit and quality of life as being a major issue due to very low milk prices.  Labor is a major issue in both profit and quality of life that has prompted Hispanic dairy workers on a few NE Iowa Dairy farms.  This need is being filled but has impacts on efficiency due to cultural and communication problems.  Thus, this  field specialist identified this issue as area where producers need to improve efficiency both from not only a quality of life and profit aspect but also as a means to improve the quality of life and assimilation of Hispanic workers into our dairy culture.  The second issue is reducing SCC to increase profits.

ISU Extension Response
In response to the identified need, this field specialist responded to several requests for assistance by managers with Hispanic milkers through one-on-one farm visits on topics of milk quality, parlor management, cow handling and English/Spanish translation.  This field specialist worked with the milkers during milking time on milking time practices such as cow prepping and time and motion procedures along with efficient cow movement in and out of the parlor to improve time efficiency. In addition, this field specialist served as an interpreter to assist better human understanding of cultures and reduction of the language barriers.  This field specialist also shared with both the manager and the milkers the Utah State University publication on Spanish for dairy.

Impact and Reactions
Two dairy producers have been assisted in this process on the above topics with five hispanic milkers.  Both managers expressed gratitude of the progress made in labor efficiency and also reducing the communication barrier.  Four of the Hispanic milkers were surveyed as to the helpfulness of the service and all four responded very positively to the point that both the managers and milkers expressed willingness and interest for this field specialist to come out monthly to visit with them.  One dairy producer reported cutting his SCC by 150,000 which at 340 cows, a 25,000 herd average and in premium increase of $0.30 per hundredweight, equates to an annual added profit of $25,500 for his herd.  This is not counting his increased labor efficiency or increase in milk production with the lower cell count.  Reducing cell counts in half usually means 400 additional pounds of milk per cow which at $13 per cwt would translate into another $17,680 or a probable impact of $43,180 for this one herd annually.
Future Needs
With the increasing interest in Hispanic/latino dairy labor, a need is surfacing for cultural sensitivity training, language translation and bridging the gap to improve the profit and quality of life of both the dairy managers and the Hispanic laborers.  Also, individual and group farm meetings need to be done to further increase milk quality.

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz,