Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Dairy Science

First Advisor

Maristela Rovai


This Master thesis evaluates the impact of general health care and eating habits (Study 1), vision care (Study 2), and mental health status (Study 3) on Latino dairy farmworkers lifestyle and work performance in South Dakota. We hypothesized that the health status of dairy workers has a negative impact on the workers’ job performance. In study 1, data from a total of 70 participants were collected, using a face-to-face survey in Spanish, which allowed us to assess various topics and details related to employees’ daily routine tasks, eating habits, and general health status. Furthermore, recommendations to improve general health care were given at an educational workshop at the end of the survey period. The most participants were males (76%); the mean age of participants was 28 ± 1.7 and 34 ± 1.6 for female and male, respectively. The majority of the participants were Mexican (46%) and Guatemalan (44%) workers. The majority (80%) do not have health insurance; over half of them have not seen a physician in the last 3 years, and 65% have not seen a dentist in the last 6 months. Also, over half (53%) of the interviewed workers were overweight or obese (mean BMI = 25.6 ± 4.2 kg/m2). Workers living in the U.S. for up to four years had BMI = 25 kg/m2, whereas the BMI of those who had been in the U.S. for a long time was higher ( > 28 kg/m2). One-third reported sleeping between four to six hours a day and 46% reported eating in restaurants at least twice a week. They usually opted for healthier choices when arriving in the U.S.; however, their food habits change throughout the years with more fast food or frozen food consumption due to their convenience. In Study 2, 90 participants were enrolled for vision screening to identify visual impairments. Demographic data using a survey was collected. Almost one-fourth needed further eye examination and 43% had never been seen by an eye care provider either due to the cost of eye care or due to the language barrier. Among the participants that needed an eye exam, 60% were milking parlor workers. A full detailed report of pupillary diameter, ocular alignment, binocular refraction, and referral recommendation (e.g., anisometropia, hyperopia, strabismus, myopia, astigmatism, and anisocoria) was provided to participants at the end of the study. In study 3, 50 dairy farm employees participated in a Focus Group (FG) for a qualitative study. A total of 7 FG sessions were conducted, 5 FG with 3 commercial dairy farms, and 2 FG in 2 different communities with dairy workers. Transcriptions of the FG were analyzed and coded line by line for each quotation and question using ATLAS.TI software (Scientific Software Development GmbH). Most of the participants were males (88%), and 54% were Mexicans, 30% Guatemalans and 16% other Latin American countries (e.g., El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua). Participants were asked to share stress-causing factors in their workplace, at home, and in their community. Additionally, participants shared information on the strategies they apply or consider useful in reducing stress. Physical changes experienced due to stress, the main causes of their insomnia, and the meaning of stress in one word were included. Results show that over 35 factors were contributing to overall stress at the workplace, at home, and in the community, which were also qualitatively identified. Personal health care and mental health were influenced by individual values, culture, motivation, environment, and community. Overall, employee’s well-being may impact their job performance in a negative way. Strategic workshops designed to promote health education and healthy eating habits for farmworkers are needed in their native language.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dairy workers -- Health and hygiene -- South Dakota.
Dairy workers -- Mental health -- South Dakota.
Dairy workers -- Nutrition -- South Dakota.
Dairy workers -- Dental care -- South Dakota.
Dairy workers -- Job stress -- South Dakota.
Hispanic American agricultural laborers -- South Dakota.
Hispanic Americans -- South Dakota.
Eye -- Care and hygiene.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright