US dairy woman moves to Aus and a whole new way of dairying

Penny Cooper’s story of her life in dairy in the US and now Australia, shows just how different dairy is around the world and I’m delighted she agreed to write a guest post for Milk Maid Marian. Penny, who now trims cows’ hoofs for a living, will be running a lameness workshop in Toora on March 19. If you’re interested in attending, visit or connect with Penny on Twitter at @allstatetrim.

Penny celebrates Halloween in the dairy with her Grandad

Halloween in the dairy parlor with Grandad

I was raised on a 240 acre dairy farm in the heart of dairy country, Wisconsin USA. No one would imagine I would make it to South Gippsland, Australia, in the pursuit of helping lame cows. The differences between dairying in sometimes frozen tundra to the harsh Aussie summer are huge!

Growing up, we milked our cows in stantions and moved our milking units down the line, kneeling down to milk in between cows. Which was always made it fun when you had a particularly sassy heifer!!

We only had 80 cows, just like most other family farms in the area, but on a cold winter night when temperatures dropped to sometimes -20C it was plenty!! The cows usually heated the barn a bit but it was not unheard of to have to stop milking, run to the milk house get a bucket of hot water and pour it over the milk line because it had frozen solid before hitting the bulk tank!! In early 1999 we became quite “advanced”, installing a homemade step up/walk through parlor!

Making the change to rotational grazing brought about a new set of issues like frozen teats when the cows were sleeping with 4 feet of snow on the ground. People thought we were crazy and maybe we were but that’s okay too.

One thing that is constant, no matter where I travel in the dairy industry, is the kindness of the people and the amazing work ethic that is passed down from generation to generation. My Grandpa taught me that the Farm comes first no matter what, that I could do whatever I wanted on Friday night but I better be there to get cows on Saturday morning and to be proud of the job knowing that farming is the backbone to a great nation. I am so lucky to be involved in this great profession still today!