Down Under: Learning – One part books, one part hard work, and one part hands-on experience.

Hoard's Dairyman: 

Down Under: Learning – One part books, one part hard work, and one part hands-on experience.

Date: 
Tue, 05/31/2011

Earlier this month, we were introduced to Anna Gibson, a Washington State University student who is working on a dairy in Tasmania, an Australian island. She shares stories from her first week “down under.” We will continue to keep you updated on Anna’s adventure as the summer (her winter) progresses.

I have been in Australia for one week now. Shoestring Dairy is very different than other dairies I have toured. The first difference: this is a seasonal dairy with most of their cows in the same stage of lactation. Right now, it’s the end of the milking season, so we are drying cows and producing less milk.


An enjoyable aspect of this dairy is that all the cows are on grass. The dairies I have visited in the northwest only put their heifers and dry cows on pasture. Seeing 800 cows lying in the pasture and eating grass is a sight! One part of my job is to gather the cows from the paddocks. I drive the four-wheeler to move them to the facility to be milked. I enjoy this part of the job!


This dairy has a spinning parlor, and the first couple times I milked, I fell behind and had to stop the moving floor to catch up. Personally, I think I am improving, but I know it will take some time to become proficient. I am told that I will adjust to the moving parlor. Last night, over wallaby mac and cheese, my coworker, Ryan, gave me the ins and outs of the parlor, including the best technique attaching and removing the milking unit, also known as “cupping on and off.” I am thankful to be working with understanding people who are willing to answer my questions.

I have studied dairy science at Washington State University, but, while working here, I have learned a very critical lesson: Learning is not just reading about a topic, but it is actually participating in the action. This is especially true when learning in agriculture. While on the dairy, I am putting my book-learned lessons into practice. Even with the knowledge I brought with me to Tassy, I am constantly learning at Shoestring Dairy. So for all students, young and old, remember that learning is not just simply working on the farm or reading about it in a book. It’s a marriage of the two, and together they produce a well-rounded, intelligent agricultural worker.

Living in Australia is also wonderful - and very different from America. Even though we all speak English, Aussie is different. Often I ask, “What do you mean?” There are some words that are easier to learn. For example, rubbish is trash and jumper is a jacket. I am having a hard time with the conversions. Before coming to Tassy, I didn’t use meter for distance or litre for volume. Slowly, I have started to grasp the metric system.

Living in Tassy, I share my home with some bugs and little critters. I was well warned that in Australia there are a lot of bugs, but it still gives me a fright when a huge spider waits in my shower. Lucky for me, my roommate, Jai, is a native Tasmanian. She told me they are not poisonous, but, for safe measure, I better kill it. It is also a strange sight to look in my kitchen sink and see a few lizards just chillin’ with my dishes! Even with all the little friends around the house, I love it here. The Australians have very fun personalities and a good sense of humor.

The land is amazing, and, when I look out my window, I can’t even believe that I get to live here! From the old farm house I call home, Tassy is very green and is spotted with sheep and cows with the mountains in the background!

Until next time, my friends!
AG