Describing motivation for health and treatment decisions and communication choices of calf-care workers on western United States dairies. Academic Article uri icon


  • On large dairy farms, animal health assessments and treatments are made by farm employees. Little is known about how employees make decisions about illness detection or treatment, information critical to improving antimicrobial stewardship. The objectives of this study were to describe calf-care employee motivations for decisions associated with preweaned calf health and treatments, describe on-farm worker communication networks, and determine information sources used by these employees to support their decisions. Personal interviews were conducted with 103 calf-care employees on 28 farms in the western United States. The interview consisted of 10 motivation source type (MST) questions and questions about training, communication and educational opportunities. A latent class analysis created a summary for MST and resulted in 4 classes. Forty-three percent of calf-care employees fell into a class where responses were a combination of internal and intrinsic (personal beliefs or values and task fulfillment, respectively) and 23% were a combination of internal and goal internal (aligned with organizational goals). This latter class aligned health decisions with internal motivation and treatment decisions with goal internal. A network analysis summarized dominant communication relationships and established that feeders and treaters perceived more communication with supervisors than was reciprocated by supervisors, and that there was less communication between workers and management for tasks relative to daily work. Employee training was primarily done by herdsman, calf manager, or coworkers, and information for skill improvement and problem solving was sought from these individuals. Although veterinarians were not often involved in employee training, when they were involved, employees were likely to use them as an information source for skill improvement and problem solving. Few participants had ever used social media, but almost all had a device that could access the internet; more than 60% indicated interest in a social media platform for work-related information. Work motivation for many calf caretakers appeared to be sourced from personal beliefs, values, and job fulfillment, particularly when deciding to treat a sick calf. Investigation and incorporation of beliefs and values in training programs could help with alignment of protocols with actual treatment and further efforts to implement judicious use of antimicrobials.

published proceedings

  • J Dairy Sci

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Moore, D. A., Blackburn, C. C., Afema, J. A., Kinder, D. R., & Sischo, W. M.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Moore, DA||Blackburn, CC||Afema, JA||Kinder, DR||Sischo, WM

publication date

  • March 2021