Spring 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 1 // Feature Articles // 1FEA5

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Influencing Practices Through Videotape


Daniel J. Decker
Assistant Professor and Extension Leader
Department of Natural Resources
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

William G. Merrill
Professor of Dairy Management
Department of Animal Science
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Extension educators have shown great interest in using videotapes for program delivery. Despite its increased use in recent years, evaluation of videotape application to nonformal adult education has been limited. The effectiveness of videotapes for educating farmers hasn't been well-documented. Such documentation is important in view of the cost of producing quality videotapes.

Communicating Recommended Practices

Recommended practices about proper milking procedures are important in the dairy industry. Dairy farmers can increase milk quality, yield, udder health, and milking performance, and improve the overall profitability of their operations by using proper milking procedures. Experience in New York had shown that few dairy farmers do all of the recommended milking procedures, do them properly, or have an accurate understanding of the principles involved.

Because dairy specialists at Cornell University believed that a videotape might work well as part of an educational program on proper milking procedures, a 25-minute videotape, "Proper Milking Procedures," was produced. Although a workshop setting was the intended format for viewing the videotape, it was clear the videotape might be used in less-structured settings, such as a farmer's home. Therefore, it was developed to be self-explanatory, with a supplemental bulletin. The purpose of these educational materials was to help dairy farmers understand and make informed decisions about adopting proper milking practices.

The videotape discusses each step of proper milking principles and procedures. The bulletin was prepared for agents to use with the videotape in the 1988 Winter dairy schools attended by farmers around the state. The videotape was to be part of the following program format: (1) pre-evaluation-10 min., (2) videotape viewing-25 min., (3) discussion-30 min., (4) videotape viewing (repeat)-25 min., and (5) post-evaluation-10 min.

The pre-evaluation would alert learners to the content of the videotape, and obtain baseline information about them. The discussion would give the Extension agent a chance to answer farmers' questions on any points in the videotape (the bulletin would provide background for this purpose). The second viewing gave learners a chance to reinforce any points raised during the discussions. This combined educational and evaluation strategy was presented to Cornell Cooperative Extension dairy agents during an in-service education program in November 1987.


The primary objective of the evaluation was to determine the effectiveness of a videotape-based educational program in influencing the knowledge, attitudes, and practice decisions of dairy farmers. The evaluation followed a pre-test, immediate post-test, delayed (three months afterward) post-test design, using structured, closed-ended instruments. In instances where dairy farmers viewed the videotape outside the context of a workshop, the evaluation process was modified. The instruments were developed with this multiple-use potential in mind.

Results of Dairy Farmer Evaluation

Dairy farmers in 10 counties were involved in the videotape-based educational program during Winter 1988. In total, 218 people who viewed the tape responded to one or more of the three survey instruments: pretest instrument (T1)-99 videotape viewers; the immediate post-test instrument (T2)-159 viewers; and the three-month follow-up instrument (T3)-50 viewers. The following results are from the T2 and T3 instruments.

Immediate Post-Viewing Evaluation (T2)

Dairy farmers rated the "Proper Milking Procedures" videotape highly on several aspects of content, presentation, and technical quality - all characteristics of concern to the producers of the videotape (Table 1 and 2). Over 70% of dairy farmers believed the group discussion was moderately to very helpful, but only 37% believed the second video viewing was moderately to very helpful.

The videotape presented a considerable amount of new information about teat preparation that many viewers hadn't considered previously. Nearly half of the viewers reported that they currently were using three-fourths or fewer of the recommended procedures. They were particularly lax on teat preparation practices. Three-fourths of the viewers indicated they understood and agreed with the practices in the videotape, and they'd try to include them consistently in their milking procedures.

About 70% of the dairy farmers reported that after the videotape-based program they'd consider modifying their milking practices. Changes in cow handling, foremilk stripping, and teat preparation were being considered by many dairy farmers (Table 3). Adopting practices that relate to minimizing liner slips, minimizing machine stripping, avoiding excessive overmilking, and proper machine removal were also being considered by a number of farmers.

Follow-Up Evaluation (T3)

Overall, 87% of dairy farmers who were part of the follow-up evaluation changed one or more milking practices discussed in the videotape within about three months after participating in the program (Table 3). All of these farmers attributed some changes to the influence of the videotape; the discussion may also have been an influence. The number of practices changed or adopted averaged 2.4 per farmer. About 20% of dairy producers would like to adopt one or more milking practices, particularly premilking procedures, but indicated that time and economic considerations prevented them from doing so.

Table 1. Ratings of videotape.

Clarity low 3
medium 27
high 70
Completeness low 4
medium 31
high 65
Relevance low 4
medium 49
high 47
Organization very well-organized 67
fairly well-organized 29
poorly organized 4
Difficulty in understanding too difficult 3
about right 93
oversimplified 4
Presentation style too academic/scientific 11
about right 83
too "watered down" 6
Duration too long 9
about right 85
too brief 6
Pace too fast 6
about right 85
too slow 9

Table 2. Viewers' ratings of videotape visual and sound quality.

n=159 Quality rating
High Good Fair Poor Total
Visual quality: live footage 40% 49% 11% <1% 100%
graphics 39 46 15 0 100
Sound quality: narration 55 34 8 3 100
general sound 44 38 14 4 100

Table 3. Consideration of practice change versus actual practice change.

Immediate post-viewing
consideration of change
in milking practice (T2)
(for the 71% who indicated
such considerations)
Percent reporting change
in milking practice in
three-month follow-up (T3)
Procedures Percent of

of all

Cow handling 30 21 35
Foremilk stripping 29 21 29
Teat preparation 28 20 37
Machine attachment 10 7 29
Minimizing liner slips 20 14 48
Minimizing machine stripping 20 14 37
Avoiding excessive overmilking 19 13 40
Machine removal 18 13 27
Teat dipping 12 8 29

Summary and Conclusions

Dairy farmers liked having a videotape as part of a workshop, rating "Proper Milking Procedures" as a high quality educational videotape. Furthermore, the videotape-based program led to improvement in knowledge and change in attitude among farmers, which in turn resulted in substantial on-farm changes in milking procedure. Although this evaluation didn't assess the increase in milk quality or yield and concomitant economic benefit resulting from the practices adopted by farmers, we believe we can reasonably assume such benefits occurred.

Despite the perceived value of the videotape, it must be used judiciously. A second viewing of a videotape during a workshop, as in this study, wasn't well-received. Our experience indicates that a more acceptable way to reinforce information would be to encourage subsequent viewing by the farmer at home. This may increase impact because family members and employees not attending the workshop may participate in the home viewing. A companion bulletin should be available to provide a lasting reference.

The approach used in this evaluation allowed a follow-up contact with farmers about three months after they'd participated in the workshop. For all nine of the practices stressed in the videotape, a greater percentage of farmers actually adopted them, to varying extents, than they indicated immediately after participating in the workshop. Thus, the value of follow-up contact to understand the extent of actual program impact was demonstrated.

Videotape can effectively support educational efforts, and systematic evaluation can improve the effective use of educational materials.