August 2006 // Volume 44 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW1

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A Spanish Language Milker's School for Idaho Dairy Employees

Educational opportunities for Hispanic employees are consistently one of the top Idaho dairy industry-identified needs. Consequently, University of Idaho Extension Faculty developed a Spanish language Milker's School. The Milker's School provides Spanish-speaking dairy employees with an opportunity to improve their knowledge and understanding of the entire milking process, including the importance of their role in the process. The Milker's School provides an educational opportunity for a traditionally underserved group, and narrows the language and culture gap that exists between English speaking dairy owners and Spanish speaking employees.

Joseph C. Dalton
Assistant Professor, Extension Dairy Specialist
Animal and Veterinary Science Department
Caldwell, Idaho

K. Scott Jensen
Extension Educator, Livestock
Owyhee County
Marsing, Idaho

University of Idaho


Idaho is the fourth largest milk producing state in the nation (Idaho Agricultural Statistics Service, 2005a). Milk has been the number one agricultural commodity in Idaho (in terms of income received by farmers) for 4 of the past 6 years (Idaho Agricultural Statistics Service, 2005b). In 2004, Idaho cash milk receipts were $1.36 billion, up 35 % from the previous year (Idaho Agricultural Statistics Service, 2005b).

Annually, University of Idaho Extension faculty consult a dairy advisory board, consisting of producers, allied industry personnel, and veterinarians, to identify critical issues to the Idaho dairy industry. Each year one of the top identified needs is training and educational opportunities for Hispanic employees. In response to the identified need, University of Idaho Extension Faculty, drawing upon their own previous experience as dairy farm laborers, developed a Spanish language Milker's School curriculum, based on the translation of an existing English language Milker's School curriculum and commercially available videos.

Purpose and Activities

The Milker's School provides Spanish-speaking dairy employees with an opportunity to improve their knowledge and understanding of the entire milking process, including the importance of their role in the process. Milkers often receive informal on-farm training from other employees regarding how to attach milking machines; however, milkers usually lack knowledge of the effects they can have on milk letdown, milk quality, and food safety. The Milker's School curriculum was designed for a classroom setting and consists of Spanish language PowerPoint presentations and videos. The Milker's School provides dairy employees with a better understanding of how each step in the milking process can affect milk production and food safety.

The 5-hour Milker's School includes sessions on:

  • Udder anatomy
  • Cow preparation and sanitation
  • Milk letdown
  • Milk removal and milking unit handling
  • Mastitis
  • Prevention of antibiotic residues in milk
  • Milking equipment
  • Role of the dairy industry in Idaho's economy

The first Spanish language Milker's School was held in Caldwell, Idaho in 2001. The school quickly blossomed into a statewide program and has been held in Caldwell, Twin Falls, Preston, and Blackfoot, Idaho in recent years. Schools are held each year during the spring or summer.

Each year announcements (in Spanish and English) are mailed to dairy producers and veterinarians. Participants in the Milker's School include dairy producers, milking supervisors, and milkers, the majority of whom are from Mexico. A registration fee of $15.00 includes the cost of handouts, refreshments, and lunch. A certificate of completion (in Spanish) is awarded to all participants at the conclusion of the program.

Evidence of Impact

A 30-question test (true or false, fill in the blank, and multiple choice) focused on milking management was given to participants at the beginning and conclusion of the program. Table 1 shows the overall mean scores for participants completing the pre-test and post-test.

Table 1.
Participants' Overall Mean Scores on the Pre-Test and Post-Test


Number of students

Pre-test score, %

Post-test score, %

(Post-test/pre-test), %

















When the results from 2002 and 2003 are combined, 94 participants completed the pre- and post-test. The overall mean test score for the pre-test was 53.9 %, while the mean for the post-test was 77.9 %. The mean difference was 24%. In 2004, we revised the pre- and post-test to better accommodate participants of low literacy. Specifically, we 1) included the pre- and post-tests in the PowerPoint presentation, 2) verbally stated each question, and 3) reduced the number of questions to 15. In 2004, the overall mean test score for the pre-test was 70.8%, while the mean for the post-test was 80.6 %. The mean difference was 9.8%.

Meridian, Idaho dairy producer Gary Johnson, who learned to speak Spanish as an adult, describes the impact of the Milker's School: "After attending the Milker's School with my employees, we returned to the dairy and discussed the procedures we would use. Just getting us all on the same page and using the proper procedures caused an increase in milk production of almost 3 lbs per cow per day. It was definitely worth it!" On a dairy with 500 cows, with milk valued at $12.00 per 100 lbs, increased milk production of 3 lbs per cow per day translates into an additional $180.00 in income each day, or $65,700 per year.

Obstacles Overcome, Cultural Sensitivity, and Evidence of Appreciation for Diversity

The most significant obstacles that have been overcome include 1) the development and delivery of educational materials exclusively in Spanish and 2) the fear that many non-English speaking members of the community have when attending a formal class. In our opinion, this fear stems from the relatively low literacy level of the participants and their concerns about whether they will be able to understand the materials, especially with limited formal schooling.

Regarding the first obstacle, we expended considerable effort to prepare appropriate educational materials so that the entire course (including videos, PowerPoint presentations, and pre- and post-tests) would be delivered exclusively in Spanish.

Overcoming the second obstacle was accomplished by minimizing the participant's need to read, through the oral delivery of the program. Furthermore, out of respect for the culture of the participants, authentic Mexican food (including chile verde, chile colorado, rice, beans, and hand-made tortillas) has become a tradition for lunch.

Several of the participants in each session have asked what other Spanish language educational opportunities will be offered in the future. At the conclusion of one of the Milker's Schools, an attendee (a milker) said, "This class is very important. If I had to, I would pay for the class myself. When are you going to return?" As a result of the success of the Milker's School, we received the 2004 University of Idaho Extension Diversity Award.


The Idaho dairy industry relies on a Spanish-speaking workforce. The development and delivery of a Spanish language Milker's School prepares Spanish-speaking employees to become successful partners in the growing Idaho dairy industry. Furthermore, the delivery of Spanish language programs 1) provides an educational opportunity for a traditionally underserved group throughout the state of Idaho and 2) narrows the language and culture gap that exists between English speaking dairy owners and Spanish speaking employees. Additional Spanish language educational opportunities are planned due to the high level of interest among dairy producers and their employees.


Idaho Agricultural Statistics Service. 2005a. Agriculture in Idaho. Available at:

Idaho Agricultural Statistics Service. 2005b. Annual Bulletin. Available at: