Former "townie" Judith Anderson has spent three years on a Ratana dairy farm and is now a finalist for Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year.

She's one of five finalists in that section in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Award, and four of the five are female.

That doesn't surprise Philip Law, the owner-operator of the 200-hectare farm where she works.

"It comes as no surprise to me that girls are cleaning up, because they're better with stock. They don't break tractors and machinery. They're not too proud to ask for advice."


Miss Anderson has been through the first round of judging for the award.

She said the judges were nice but it was "intimidating" to have them on the farm and quizzing her for 90 minutes about its workings.

The next round of judging is on Tuesday, the Manawatu awards are presented on March 7 and the winner of her section goes forward to nationals.

Miss Anderson, 24, had previously done office work and has a degree in social work, with six months' work experience in a Vietnamese orphanage.

She came to dairy farming by chance - by doing some relieving for a friend who was 2IC on Mr Law's farm.

"I came to have a break from town life and I really loved it," she said.

The cows were a big attraction. "My main skill and driving factor is animal welfare. I love being around cows, seeing them from a calf, growing up, coming into the herd. Calving is my favourite time of year."

She started full-time at Law Farms Ltd in January 2013, and is now 2IC herself. She's learned a lot since then - to drive a tractor and a digger and to manage water troughs and electric fences - not to mention a Primary ITO Level 5 course in running a dairy business.
Her employer said Miss Anderson had come on in leaps and bounds - she had never sat on a tractor until three years ago. She now knows about cattle feeding, milking, calving and mating and enjoys the challenge of running the farm by herself.

Her job starts at 4.30am, six days a week, and usually finishes at 6pm. Those are long hours but she can have big breaks in the middle of the day, especially when it's hot.

After work she's not worn out, and usually spends at least an hour at her gym. She lives in her own house on the farm and is vice-chair of the Wanganui Young Farmers' Club.

She'd like to have her own herd by the time she's 30. After that she would be able to go into partnership with a landowner.

"I like the small farm. I wouldn't want a farm with more than three staff," she said.