Farm worker training – what you need to know

By Guest Author on 08 November 2016

A frank chat about farm worker training – what you need to be aware of

In our previous article we met Daisy and explained the basic care for dairy cows, (Ultimately our food). In this article we interview a dairy farmer and chat about his concerns to ensure the correct practices are practiced by farm workers.

I interviewed Riaan Oosthuizen, a 3rd generation owner of Rilu Farms and a primary supplier of fresh milk to various reputable companies for more than 20 years. Riaan is walking the extra mile with his workers by sending them for training, developing their leadership skills and ensure that his farms are constantly improving and adapting to requirements that can improve his service and product delivery. Even though Riaan is setting the example, he highlighted several areas for improvement.

M: “How does language and literacy levels impact your ability to comply with regulatory and client requirements?”


Riaan: “We often forget about the fact that farm workers’ exposure to the world outside the farm environment is limited. Therefore, if a farm worker is sent on a training course in the city, they experience difficulties when training is done outside the context of what they are doing on a daily basis.

Training courses are also presented in a different language, usually English, which can make them uncomfortable as this may not be familiar.

Ideally learning needs to take place in a familiar environment and often training providers lose the interest of the student if they don’t consider this. Furthermore literacy levels and language barriers are challenges and to rectify this, it’s important to adapt to the level of competency of the students and possibly use an interpreter. It is also important for trainers to understand the activities that farm workers are exposed too and make the training relevant to these activities.


M: ”How do cultural beliefs influence compliance with regulatory requirements?”


Riaan: ”There are cultural differences in perceptions and thinking related to personal hygiene, welfare of animals and improving working conditions, these are areas that we as farm owners must fill. The education system does not address these aspects fully thus making it our responsibility to develop and train farmworkers on these basic life skills.”


M: “Is current training that you receive from training providers effective?”

Riaan: “Not always. If I think of how many farm workers I’ve sent but they cannot apply what they were taught due to the incorrect level of training, or lack of relevance to their work environment and lack of on-the-job training or observed evaluation.

We need training that is applicable to the specific farm / environment where the farm worker works such as Insect management or environmental conditions relevant to the workplace.”

While the principle of providing training for employees is a good one, this short interview highlights that training may not be the answer if these comments are not considered when selecting identifying a training need and selecting a training provider. The daily enforcement of training and leading by example of the senior staff and the farm owner are also key factors in ensuring training becomes a way of life in animal welfare.



Marianne van Niekerk