Effective Training Helps Improve Poultry Welfare

Effective training has always been important to the livestock industry but recent advancements now require businesses to go beyond due-diligence to a more formalised training approach, according to Paul Cook and Andrew Raybould of RL Consulting.
calendar icon 28 May 2011
clock icon 6 minute read

Originally, training was a process where basic knowledge and information was passed on to new recruits simply by working alongside more experienced staff, this meant bad practices were very often passed on to new staff.

Over last decade, the industry has advanced in many ways, providing ever-changing opportunities and challenges. Examples include:

  • the development and utilisation of new technologies, such as computerised ventilation and feeding systems, allowing farms to fine-tune their husbandry systems
  • the emerging understanding and need to address environmental concerns both locally and globally
  • our responsibilities to ensure the safety of our food products
  • the now well-established need to produce our animals to the highest standards of animal welfare
  • the management of our employees to ensure their safety and ethical working practices, and
  • the customer and consumer becoming more interested in the welfare of the animals.

These factors have increased the need for effective training to keep teams abreast of the latest issues and practices.

During this period, an additional new requirement has emerged, in that customers now require training to be more formalised. Training has become a cornerstone of many of the assurance and accreditation inspections that are in place within the industry and increasingly through retailers' own schemes and standards.

Going Beyond Due-Diligence Training

The incorporation of training into these assurance standards has driven a requirement for a more formal approach. Many schemes demand that formal training is delivered on an annual basis and that there are records maintained to demonstrate compliance.

There is a danger that training systems become more focused on scheme compliance and lose focus on the core purpose, which should be the continued personal development of the individual. In other words, there is a danger that completing the training record can become the primary concern, as opposed to ensuring delivery of a course with appropriate and fresh content, via an effective delivery method.

Delivering the Most Effective Training Possible

There are several considerations to be made when deciding on your training format:

  • What is the skill/knowledge level of the candidates?
  • Is the course up-to-date and relevant?
  • Does the training promote interaction from the candidates?
  • Can the effectiveness of the course be assessed – is the candidates understanding of the subject verified/tested?
  • What impact does training a group of candidates have on the on the day-to-day running of the business?
  • Are there potential language barriers?
  • Does the training empower the individual and give them a sense of responsibility?

The course should be structured to bring together people with similar training requirements and abilities. In the modern business, there are many situations where training is given to candidates from more than one nationality, which brings about problems of language barriers and the expense of using translators. This situation is now being addressed by online training courses that are multi-lingual and allow the candidate to take the training in their preferred language. These on-line training courses benefit companies operating internationally, or at multiple sites, to allow them to deliver consistent training throughout all their facilities and to all the relevant staff.

It is important that the training ensures the candidate appreciates the importance of their role within the business. The training must give the candidate some skills or knowledge to allow them to perform their role in a positive and beneficial manner. It is vital that welfare training is up to date and in line with current legislation.

The often repetitive nature of moving or handling large numbers of animals can desensitise staff to the welfare of the individual animals, so regular training focusing on this aspect is crucial. Staff working with live animals may not be aware of their impact on the quality of the finished product, especially when they are disconnected from the food processing areas of the business.

Very often training staff can be as simple as putting a group of people in a room and showing them the same DVD or presentation year after year, this very quickly loses its impact and is of no benefit to the staff attending the training. There are always plenty of emerging issues and best practices which can make courses relevant, interesting and up to date.

How the training is presented can have an enormous affect on level of knowledge retained by the staff. In a large group of people, it is easy for an individual or even the whole group to lose focus and derive little benefit from the training. Specific one-to-one training is a better approach, but this is obviously far more expensive and time-consuming than training a group of people. There are several research papers that suggest candidates learn more and retain more information when the training is interactive. This ensures that the candidate is focused and engaged with the subject matter. This can be achieved in various ways, from practical assessment to the use of the latest on-line multimedia technology.

The logistics of group training can be difficult to schedule during normal working hours. Often very small groups must be trained, which may lead to inefficiency. Alternatively training may need to be carried out before or after shifts when staff may be less receptive. Online welfare training courses can provide a simple alternative, as it allows individual staff to complete a course at a time and place which is convenient to them and the business.

Whichever method of training is selected it is essential that the business recognises its effectiveness and ability to transfer knowledge and skills to staff. An easy and effective way of achieving this is through simple multiple-choice type questions which provide a benchmark to ensure that the training has been understood by the candidate. There are on-line training courses which use interactive training technology along with multiple choice question, and upon successful completion presents a certificate of merit to the candidate for successful completion of the course. This certificate provides the business with the evidence to show the individual staff member is trained and also satisfies the widely accepted need to have due diligence training associated with animal welfare.

There are several training associations and bodies available within the industry, those of note include Bristol University, which can provide training and consultancy for specific issues on slaughter. Animal Welfare Training which provides the Animal Welfare Officer training suited to middle and senior management.

Fundamentals training is an online course offering entry level welfare training from RL Consulting. For more information, click here.

May 2011

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