One of the primary goals on farms is to maximize pig survivability throughout every life stage. This is attained not only by having farm staff competent in animal care, but also by creating a culture that values and cares for people. Excellent care acknowledges the importance of words, behavior, values, and feelings amongst farm caregivers, and thus, incorporates these components in both the content and methodology when training. Studies reinforce that the best way to effectively train staff includes demonstration, mentorship, and verification.
After reading this factsheet, you will better understand the following key points to creating a culture of care on farm:
- Values, behavior, and words create a culture
- A daily culture of excellent pig care results in enhanced human and pig welfare, increased staff retention, and can help meet farm productivity goals
- A farm’s culture of excellent pig care is nurtured through training opportunities
- Staff that are given the opportunity to see a task or skill demonstrated, practice with a mentor, and teach the task back are more likely to continue executing the job task accurately
Creating a culture of care on farm
It is important that the people responsible for inspiring others to provide great care make a commitment to provide training for employees. Training involves not only initiation into what it means to be a caregiver, but it also means that you commit to the development of that person over time and hold that person accountable on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.
Creating and nurturing a culture of care is a value that needs to be both demonstrated and trained to all farm staff. A culture of excellent pig care impacts livestock survivability. Studies have also demonstrated that when care is shown to staff, farms achieved 20% more in profit, had 24% less unscheduled absences, and had 13% lower employee turnover than average businesses (Juszkiewicz et al., 2004, as cited in Wagner and Harter, 2006).
To create a culture of care, every system must commit to an orientation for new employees on day one of employment. Before beginning any training, it is important to talk with individuals about their emotions and past experiences to determine how their behavior and interaction with pigs might be impacted. In some cases where animal abuse or inappropriate care has occurred, the root cause may lie in the person’s feelings along with a failure by others to acknowledge those feelings and/or inappropriate behaviors over time. For example, abuse often originates from fear. If a person is fearful of an animal, they are at risk of protecting themselves in a way that is or may be interpreted as inappropriate care for animals. By checking in with employees on day one and acknowledging these feelings and past experiences, you can lower your risk of being in a situation where someone reacts inappropriately.
Subjects covered on day one should underline the importance of care on farm such as pig welfare, biosecurity, human safety, and standards for how humans treat other humans on your site. The orientation should involve and respect a caregiver’s past education and experience, yet also uphold the standards of care that farm managers are committed to on farm. With most injuries happening within the first 30 days of employment, an orientation needs to have an emphasis on employee safety and reinforce that every employee leads by example.
The science demonstrates that people are very often influenced by what they see others do (O’Sullivan and Burce, 2014; Probst Miller and Krantz, 2019). Because every person teaches others on farm by their actions every day, all employees must understand that they are mentoring more by their actions than their words. As humans, we often mimic our peers. Therefore, training on farm needs to emphasize that every employee action leads, teaches, and mentors others on farm.
Assessing competencies on farm
In addition to orientation, it is important that competency assessments be done routinely. How a farm does these assessments depends on the farm manager’s training philosophy and commitment. AgCreate suggests that farm managers measure competencies by subjecting themselves to a task as a “new employee” or “student” and having the employees teach back what they know. From this, farm managers can see how mentors are teaching other employees and are able to get a baseline measurement on how well the farm is performing that task. We also encourage farm managers to consider using this method to remeasure success post-training. For example, if a farm manager is wanting to revamp the weaning experience, it would be important to get a baseline competency measurement prior to training and then remeasure post-training to assess impact over time. We would also recommend that competency assessments on critical tasks surrounding a culture of excellent pig care and excellent human care be done on a routine basis – at least once or twice a year to ensure that your farm is upholding practices that help you maintain the right to sell pork.
Delivery and tracking of training
Creating a culture of excellent pig care requires a thorough training program. Learning experiences that combine e-learning technologies with on-farm learning experiences increase accessibility to all staff. If you will be creating your own learning experiences, it is important to consider the science of how adults learn. Typically, one has only 8-30 seconds to grab the attention of an adult to help them engage with the content. Remember that stress or feelings can interfere with a person’s ability to learn. Be sure to check-in with employees’ feelings to help ensure that information is being presented at a time when employees can obtain and retain information in a lasting way.
It is important that all training be tracked to a record-keeping system. Very often in the pork industry, we are not only being asked to train but to prove that training has been completed. Keeping track of learning experiences and recording it to a learning management software or a physical file of the employee is critical to not only protect farms from liability but also to give employees a sense of accomplishment as they journey as a caregiver on farm.
Lasting impacts of training
Training can provide a sense of professionalism on farm. Professionals have a continuing education program and have peers that hold one another accountable. Once a job is created that is embedded with professionalism, this job will be a working example of how to nurture, live, and measure a culture of excellent pig care on farm.
Creating and nurturing a culture of care on farm has been shown to increase pig survivability in addition to supporting staff retention and safety. Valuing a culture of excellent pig care requires a farm to evaluate the words, behaviors, and trainings that are used to teach farm staff. When prioritized, a culture of care should be directly incorporated in staff trainings and reinforced through daily practice. Effective trainings take into consideration employees’ past experiences and adult learning styles. Offering an employee the opportunity to visualize, practice with a mentor, and teach back a skill has been demonstrated to improve farm staff competencies. Embedding professionalism into every employee’s role – by providing ongoing training opportunities, treating each employee as a leader, and by tracking trainings to provide accountability – additionally helps to ensure a farm’s culture of care is valued and demonstrated by all employees.
References and Citations
O’Sullivan, N., and A. Burce. 2014. Teaching and learning in competency-based education. Proc. The 5th Int. Conf. on e-Learn. 5:71-77.
Probst Miller, S., and S. Krantz. 2019. Inspiring a verified culture of care post-identification
of abuse on an undercover video using a baseline assessment of expressed competencies compared to post training measurement of expressed competencies. Pork Avenue Training Portal. https://porkavenuetraining.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Inspiring-a-verified-culture.pdf (Accessed 15 January 2022.)
Wagner, R., and J. K. Harter. 2006. 12: The Elements of Great Managing. The Gallup Organization, Washington, D.C., p. 42.