Waikato vet Emma Dangen is preparing to compete in this year's FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Hawke's Bay. It's the first time in the contest's history that two of the finalists are women.
Emma Dangen is a newly-trained Waikato vet and bride-to-be who takes multi-tasking to the next level.
The 24-year-old lives on a 750 cow split-calving dairy farm in Pirongia and is in her first year working for Vetora.
Dangen's days start at 5.30am, when she pulls on overalls to help her fiancé Chris Poole feed calves before work.
"I feed the newborn calves. It can be quite time-consuming teaching them how to drink off a feeder," said Dangen.
"Chris calved about 350 cows in the autumn. He's been buying in calves and plans to rear about 1000 this year, which is a lot."
"Chris looks after all of the older calves, so he probably feeds 10 times as many as I do," she laughed.
Chris contract milks on the property, which is owned by his parents. Dangen enjoys helping with the pre-dawn feeding.
"It's actually a nice way to spend a bit of time together, otherwise we wouldn't see each
other until dinner," said Dangen.
After a quick shower and breakfast, Dangen heads to Vetora's clinic in Te Awamutu, where she's a cattle vet.
"I get such a kick out of working with cattle. I was quite quick to close the door on treating cats and dogs," she laughed.
"I've had to treat a few cows with unusual eye problems, which is something I didn't learn much about at university."
"These are the sort of cases I thought I'd probably never see in my career, let alone in my first couple of months as a vet," she said.
Dangen completed a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at Massey University, where "75 per cent" of her class were women.
She started working for Vetora in January and describes it as a "fantastic place to start out as a vet".
"It's taught me to be really honest with farmers," she said.
"If I get a strange case which I need to consult more experienced vets about, then I'll tell them. Communication is vital."
Emma is relishing working as part of a team where she can build on the knowledge she learned studying in Palmerston North.
"First-year vets don't know how to scan a cow to confirm if she's pregnant, that's something we get taught on the job," she said.
"By our second year we need to be fast enough to quickly and accurately scan a herd of cows during milking."
Dangen's skill and her ability to work efficiently helped her take out the Waikato/Bay of Plenty FMG Young Farmer of Year title in March.
Her win means for the first time in the contest's 51-year history, two of the grand finalists will be women.
"It's huge for the contest and it's awesome to be one of those women," she said.
"A lot of women have put in a lot of hard work over the years to get more women involved in agriculture."
"Their efforts are paying off. You just have to look at all the young girls dominating the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition," she said.
Dangen is now a role model for many of those TeenAg students and she urges them to have confidence in their abilities.
"The biggest hurdle I faced when applying for vet school was people saying I wouldn't get in," she said.
"I was told you had to be smart to be a vet. It made me doubt my ability. My advice to others is to back yourself and just do it."
In between feeding calves, treating sick animals, playing sport and preparing for grand final, Dangen's also busy planning her wedding.
Emma and Chris have been together about three and a half years and in January he popped the question.
"I went home in April to try on wedding dresses with mum and used the opportunity to talk grand final tactics with dad and my brother Tim," she laughed.
Dangen's parents Robyn and Lyall Dangen live at Muriwai Beach, west of Auckland.
Together with Tim, they rear and finish about 700 dairy beef calves.
"Not many people enjoy calf rearing, but my entire family and Chris get a real kick out of seeing calves get to 100 kg," she said.
With spring just around the corner, Dangen will have plenty more opportunities to hone her calf rearing skills.
"It's been the most fast-paced year of my life, but I actually think I'm better when I'm busy," she said.
Name: Emma Dangen
Region: Waikato/Bay of Plenty
- The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final runs from 4 th -6 th July in Hawke's Bay.