It's Thursday afternoon and Mairi Whittle has just got inside after working in the icy cold snow that's falling around Taihape.

Whittle, 28, is a shepherd on Pukekaka sheep and beef farm, located 26 kilometres east of the gumboot capital of the world.

"It's been snowing since early this morning, we got caught out mustering in it and I got told to knock off at lunch time," Whittle says.

"There's not going to be much happening on the farm if it's like this next week."


That will suit the former rural bank manager just fine, as starting on Wednesday next week, she will be competing against seven others in the Fieldays Rural Catch competition.

Formerly known as the Fieldays Rural Bachelor of the Year, Fieldays Rural Catch will pit four women and four men against each other in a series of competitive activities.

These include the Suzuki ATV skills challenge, STIHL challenge, LIC bullseye challenge, culinary challenge, tractor challenge and fittest farmer challenge.

"I'm not looking forward to any of them," Whittle says and laughs.

"No, I'm looking forward to dog handling the most, but it will be a lot different to what I'm used to. From what I remember they have a dog handler up there and you use her dogs."

Whittle has four of her own and said "they'll be crazy when I get back" sometime after the competition ends on Saturday, June 16.

Whittle is a regular Fieldays attendee, enjoying the opportunity to catch up with old friends and purchase some new products from the event at Mystery Creek in Hamilton.

But she never saw herself participating in something like the Rural Catch.


"I kind of got peer pressured into it to be honest, but in saying that it will be good to have a week off the farm, I can't complain about that," Whittle says.

"I wasn't 100 per cent sure I was going to follow through, but then I thought 'why not?' there's nothing to lose and it's quite a prize package."

The winner of the competition will be awarded the illustrious golden gumboot trophy and an impressive pool of prizes worth more than $20,000.

The prizes include a Suzuki ATV quad bike, a $2000 Swanndri voucher, a $1500 STIHL voucher and a $1000 Skellerup voucher.

They would be a big help to Whittle as she prepares to return to her family farm, having only made the transition from bank manager to shepherd about 18 months ago.

"My parents have a farm and I've always wanted to get back there. This [current] job is all about me gaining experience to set me up so I can do that," she says.

"I'm absolutely loving it, I'm learning a s**tload and it's nice to finally be doing something outside."

So, what does she think her chances are of returning with that golden gumboot?

"I reckon my chances are about one in eight."