TWIN FALLS, Idaho – More education for dairy employees on animal welfare is planned following an undercover video at a south-central Idaho dairy showing mistreatment of animals, an associate professor and extension dairy specialist at the University of Idaho says.
“I look at it as an opportunity to educate our workers and provide the materials for them to do a good job,” Mireille Chahine told the Times-News.
She said animal welfare classes will be added this summer at the University of Idaho extension office in Twin Falls. The facility already offers classes on feeding, dairy production and milking.
In January, a former employee at Bettencourt Dairies’ Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal abuse after an undercover video shot by an animal rights group showed workers stomping, dragging and beating cows inside a milking barn.
The video was shot using a hidden camera by a member of Mercy for Animals who got a job at Dry Creek Dairy for a few weeks last summer. The video shows workers at the dairy beating cows with a cane as the animals slipped and slid on the wet concrete floor; workers kicking and stomping cows that had fallen between the metal bars in the milking stalls; and a cow being dragged out of the barn by a chain around her neck as she lies on the concrete floor.
Dairy owner Luis Bettencourt, who has 13 facilities and about 60,000 milk cows, said last fall that he fired five workers after seeing the video and installed video cameras throughout his facilities. He also had employees sign a contract stating actions seen in the video weren’t acceptable.
Chahine said dairies know treating animals well is what leads to success.
“You have to have good animal care to have good animal production,” she said. “Dairy producers understand that.”
She said the new classes will allow the office to “address some of the animal care issues and explain why we do things a certain way.”
Employees will also learn how to determine if a cow is sick and what to do when a cow can’t stand up.
“Dragging a cow is unacceptable,” she said. She also said that at the dairies, employees will soon be seeing signs with 10 guidelines for animal welfare. The signs were developed and paid for by the Idaho Beef Council and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.
Bob Naerebout, executive director of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, said employees need to know the difference between working properly with animals and animal abuse. He also said dairies need to instill in employees the idea of stopping animal abuse as it happens.
“If you’re an employee, you help stop that,” he said.