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Program aims to enhance dairy workforce

Carol Ryan Dumas

Capital Press

University of Idaho, the College of Southern Idaho and Idaho Dairymen's Association have teamed up to off training, certification and college credits to dairy workers to enhance Idaho's dairy workforce.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — After more than a year in the making, a new animal-care training program for dairy workers will begin this fall through a collaboration of University of Idaho Extension, the College of Southern Idaho and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.

The program, offering a series of two-day classroom and on-dairy sessions, will be available in Idaho’s Magic and Treasure valleys and in eastern Idaho, and offers certification for dairy workers and the opportunity to apply the training toward college credits at CSI.

“The program is designed to provide what dairymen need as far as employees,” said Willie Bokma, a Twin Falls County dairyman and a member of the program’s advisory board.

It is meant to enhance the dairy workforce by providing training and certification for workers and prospective employees. The program can also provide workers interested in changing positions or new workers an opportunity to receive training and find out if they like a particular area of work.

Instructors cover all the bases when it comes to what is needed from dairy workers, including animal care, milking techniques, calf raising and feed identification.

“It’s a win/win for dairy employees and dairy owners,” said Mireille Chahine, UI Extension dairy specialist in Twin Falls.

If employees understand the how and why of management practices, they will more closely follow protocols and their work is going to be more efficient, she said.

The training could also reduce employee turnover and the time, frustration and expense that accompany it, Bokma said.

In addition to enhancing the dairy workforce, the program will help employees become more educated and give them skills and certification that can help with their immigration status, he said.

UI Extension has offered training programs in Spanish and English for dairy workers for many years. This program expands those efforts with the additional support from CSI and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association. The existing training program will become more valuable through this collaborative effort, Chahine said.

“It would positively impact the dairy industry by adding to the knowledge base of the workers as they are trained and certified,” Chahine said.

Workers who complete the training will earn certificates of completion. They also can earn college credits through CSI that can be applied toward a certificate.

Many workers are interested in continuing education and understanding the why behind what they do on the dairy, Chahine said.

The program is constructed in a series of classes, with each addressing a specific area of dairy management. Initially, the classes will be offered in Spanish, but can be offered in English if there is a demand. There is also a possibility in the future of delivering the program to niche groups of future employees such as refugees, she said.

An animal care training covering procedures, stockmanship, health and disease prevention, lameness and routine practices will be offered in the Magic Valley in October, eastern Idaho in November and the Treasure Valley in December. A feeder class on nutrition, ration mixing and feeding will also be held in the Magic Valley in October.

Milking training is set for January in the Magic Valley and will be offered in the spring in eastern Idaho and the Treasure Valley.

The program has been pilot tested with workers’ knowledge showing significant improvement and with positive feedback from workers and dairy owners, Chahine said.

The cost for each training is $75 with lunch included on the first day. For more information or to register, contact Chahine at (208) 736-3600 or



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