Falling snow and frigid temperatures: Consider dairy workforce
Winter udder health, minimizing calf stress this winter and tips for protecting the herd from ‘old man winter’ are often popular topics in dairy media during this time of the year. While there are thousands of articles on udder health and calf management this season, rarely do any of them discuss the workers who perform these jobs in extreme weather conditions. Are we taking care of our workforce that in turn protects our herds from Mother Nature’s most severe elements?
According to Jorge Delgado, Alltech On-Farm Support Program manager, dairy owners need to remember that most of their Hispanic workers have probably not dealt with snow or extremely low temperatures in the past. Delgado offers these five tips for dairy owners to share with the employees milking, bedding and feeding their cows.
Both female and male employees should wear leggings or thermal underwear under their pants. Wool and fabrics such as silk and propylene will keep them warmer than other fabrics. Keep in mind this may be something completely new for a lot of them.
Blouses and shirts should have sleeves that hug their wrists and should be worn to keep in body heat.
Have them wear heavy socks to keep their feet warm (two or three pairs). Wool socks are best. Cotton socks should be avoided. Make sure they are wearing boots that are insulated and waterproof. If possible, provide shoe-boot dryers in locker rooms.
Provide milkers with gloves they can use underneath milking gloves to keep their hands warmer.
- A lot of the companies dairies do business with provide stocking hats that can go over their head and ears. Ask for a bunch for your workers so they can be protected from the heat that escapes from their heads.
Delgado also suggests dairy owners make sure their operations include:
Heat blowers in the parlor: Make sure they are working. In many dairies, parlor heaters may not work properly or not work at all. Fix the heaters and doors on skid steer loaders.
Have some rock salt. Rock salt helps melt the ice on slippery surfaces and, mixed with sand, can provide temporary traction on holding areas and stairs in the parlor.
Have plenty of drinking water in the parlor to keep employees from getting dehydrated.
“Tell your workers doing chores outdoors, it is ok to take adequate breaks from the cold,” Delgado said. “These are the people taking care of your animals. Remember that this is a new experience for most of these guys, and they deserve to be treated with respect.”
For more information about the Alltech On-Farm Solutions and Support Program, please visit www.alltech.com or call (800)289-8324.