Calf care personnel on dairy farms and their educational opportunities

W. M. Sischo, D. A. Moore, Richard Van Vleck Pereira, L. Warnick, D. L. Moore, J. Vanegas, S. Kurtz, K. Heaton, D. Kinder, J. Siler, M. A. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


As dairy herd sizes become larger and the organization of the business more complex, targeting communication and education to enhance animal care becomes more difficult. The purpose of this study was to describe selected demographics of calf care employees on large (>500 animals) and small (<501 animals) dairy farms that raise their own calves. Two to 8 individuals per farm involved with calf care, including owners, veterinarians, and calf managers, feeders, and treaters, were interviewed in either English or Spanish. Interviews were conducted in person on 53 dairy farms located in Arizona, Idaho, New York, Oregon, and Washington State. The number of preweaned calves on the farm ranged from 9 to 1,500 (median = 93). A total of 224 individuals were interviewed across 8 job titles. As farm size increased, personnel structure became more complex. Farms with >100 preweaned calves were 15 times more likely to have a calf manager title compared with farms with ≤100 preweaned calves. Eight farms designated the same person as calf manager, treater, and feeder, all with ≤100 preweaned calves. Thirty-two (60%) of the farms had at least 1 full-time calf feeder. Almost 30% of owners and over 40% of veterinarians interviewed were over 50 yr of age, whereas over 40% of the calf managers, feeders, and treaters were under 30 yr of age. Seventy-three percent of feeders and 72% of treaters spoke Spanish at home. For languages in which interviewees were comfortable speaking, more than 30% of owners and 33% of veterinarians were comfortable communicating in Spanish. For calf-care employees, 60% of calf managers, 42% of feeders, and 38% of treaters were bilingual (English and Spanish), but most (72%) preferred to be interviewed in Spanish. The level of education varied by job title for those interviewed, but most of the calf care team had high school or less education. However, some diversity was observed in educational background within job title with almost 38% of the calf managers having at least some college education. The majority of feeders (88%) and treaters (83%) reported being trained by another employee and 66 and 58%, respectively, had not received any continuing education in the previous year. With the amount of diversity seen on these farms, understanding employees' educational backgrounds, language, and generational differences may be valuable when developing training for new procedures for animal health or other aspects of animal care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • calf management
  • extension education
  • labor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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