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Case Study: Cowboys and E-Learning

When it comes to cowboys and cattle feed yards, most people wouldn’t think about the implementation of training via e–learning. Computers don’t usually come to mind, when you picture a cowboy on horseback, riding around a herd of cattle. However, for a multi–yard cattle feeding operation, such as Cactus Feeders, technology is an integral part of the business.

Cactus Feeders, an Amazing Organization

In 1975 Paul Engler founded Cactus Feeders, which has grown to almost a billion dollar company, employing around 500 people. Headquartered in Amarillo, Texas, Cactus Feeders owns and operates 10 feed yards across the Texas panhandle and Kansas. First and foremost Cactus Feeders is dedicated to the care of their cattle, which is a 24–hours–a–day, 365 days–a–year job. Cactus Feeders applies the same amount of care and attention to their employees, facilities and equipment. Being in a business where your product is dependent on living beings requires constant hard–work and dedication. Within a few minutes of speaking with Ron Odell, Director of Feedyard Services, it is apparent the organization takes great pride in their employees.

A leader in the beef and cattle feeding industry, from their innovative cattle marketing to the research they produce, Cactus Feeders does much more than feed cattle. They participate in pharmaceutical and feed ingredient development projects and are proud of their commitment to environmental and food safety guidelines.

Safety Culture at Cactus Feeders

Cactus Feeders is committed to helping every employee, from hourly workers, to line managers and upper management take ownership of their job and the organization. Cactus Feeders wants to hire the best and invest resources to ensure all employees are well–trained and highly qualified. From day one employees are made aware of the impact and expense an accident due to unsafe work practices has on the employee, their family, and the organization’s bottom line.

Cactus Feeders utilizes Mastery Technologies’ online Learning Management System and courseware to provide safety training to over 400 workers. Training is provided in both English and Spanish across a range of subjects, including personal protective equipment, lock out tag out, confined space, and hazard communication training. Their online safety training program helps them meet OSHA requirements, and fulfill specialty training for topics such as welding, crane safety and electrical safety.

Creating their Own Training

Beyond safety training, custom employee orientation programs are administered with the MasteryNet™Learning Management System. Custom employee orientation courses, once delivered on CD–ROM, have been transferred to the online format. They have found the online versions much easier to administer, as the risk of damaging or losing training CDs is no longer an issue.

In addition to new employee orientation and return to work programs, Cactus Feeders plans to implement more custom courseware on specialty training topics, such as low stress cattle handling, processing of cattle, and doctoring and diagnosing of diseases.

Catering to Employee Needs

The people at Cactus Feeders work hard to ensure all employees can complete training requirements within the workday. Beyond providing employees with the time and facilities to complete training, Cactus Feeders takes measures to make sure employees experience all the possible benefits from their training resources.

About 50% of the employees using the online training speak Spanish as their first language. Spanish–speaking employees are provided with a complete curriculum of safety training, as well as custom courses, presented in Spanish. Employees are given the option to take training in the language they feel most comfortable with.

Furthermore, Odell described the use of translators to make sure Spanish–speaking employees not only understood the material, but were comfortable with the process of completing their training online. Cactus Feeders has also employed group sessions, allowing employees to go through training together and engage in discussion over the interactions and quizzes through the course.

Cactus Feeders - An Amazing Organization

Cactus Feeders is nationally recognized, having received both the Cattle Business of the Century Award from the National Cattlemen’s Association Foundation and the Environmental Stewardship Award from the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.

This large-scale cattle feeding operation would not exist without the hundreds of dedicated and hard-working employees. Today Cactus Feeders is officially 100% employee owned through their Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Cactus Feeders strongly believes in putting resources into developing a well–trained workforce, and Mastery Technologies is happy to provide some of the tools to help such an amazing organization.