Perspectives of dairy employees at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic: A survey of health risks and educational needs

JDS Commun. 2023 May;4(3):186-190. doi: 10.3168/jdsc.2022-0253. Epub 2023 Feb 16.


Our objective was to understand dairy employees' perceptions and educational needs at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A bilingual (English and Spanish), anonymous survey targeted at dairy employees was circulated nationwide via university and allied industry media outlets. Responses (n = 63) from 11 states were received (May-Sep. 2020). Respondents worked in herds ranging from 50 to 40,000 animals in size. Dairy managers (33%) responded mostly to the English survey (52%), whereas entry-level workers (67%) chose the Spanish format (76%). Survey results highlighted different perspectives, educational needs, and preferred sources of information between English- and Spanish-speaking dairy workers. Overall, 83% of the respondents were somewhat concerned or very concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents (51%) indicated that their main concern was "to bring the virus from work to home and make my family sick." Most dairy employees (83%) perceived that their employers were somewhat or very concerned about the pandemic. Respondents (65%) indicated that COVID-19 informative training was provided at the workplace, but training was more frequently undertaken among dairy managers (86%) than entry-level workers (53%). Most trainings (72%) were limited to posters on walls. The preferred means of information delivery was through in-person meetings at work (35%), with YouTube (29%) and on-demand videos (27%) as second and third options. The main source of information regarding the pandemic was social media (52%). Frequent handwashing (81%), limiting on-farm visits (70%), limiting agglomeration in break rooms (65%), hand sanitizer use (60%), and social distancing (60%) were the most common safety measures implemented at the workplace among the options given to respondents. Few respondents (38%) indicated that face-covering was required at work. Successful emergency plans on dairies should consider the outreach needs and preferences of dairy workers.