Turning a love of animals into a career
When Emma Pollitt was a schoolgirl in Gisborne she loved anything with four legs, particularly horses and dogs. Agriculture, and the opportunity to work with animals, was a logical step so when she finished school she took an 18 month course at Taratahi, the Wairarapa agricultural college.
“During my time there I discovered there was so much more to the agricultural industry than I initially realised”, she says.
Working with horses and dogs, she started out as a shepherd, first in Kingston, South Otago, and then Gisborne. After that she became a large animal vet technician in Wairoa, which included the likes of assisting at difficult calvings.
“It was all livestock based: a well-rounded practical background,” says Emma.
In May 2016 she joined PGG Wrightson, initially as a technical field representative in retail, moving to her present role, as livestock genetics representative for Gisborne, Wairoa and Eastern Bay of Plenty two years later.
Last year presented her biggest challenge to date.
“When we went into lockdown, just as we were starting to prepare for the bull sale season, it made planning challenging for us and our clients. We are a small team and we had to work through it together, discovering and discussing options with each new government announcement. Fortunately we were classed as an essential service, though there was concern around conducting sales.
“Initially it was stressful. We were lucky to have bidr as an alternative to get clients’ bulls sold, offering them online and selling them in the paddock. We weren’t able to go around the country to see bulls to the lengths we normally would, so had to rely on each other much more, talking, sharing heaps of videos and working closely with clients through every step of the process.
“Through good leadership, making sure we had plenty of Plan Bs and Plan Cs ready to go, and moving into Level Two just before we hit our straps with the sales, we ended up having a really successful bull season,” says Emma.
Her greatest satisfaction in the role is from the ram and bull seasons, when it all comes together.
“You see a bull, you recognise he may suit one of your clients, you take the client out, and they like him and buy him. It is very rewarding in that respect: developing partnerships between breeders, teaming them up together. At the start, they all want to be secret squirrel, so when it comes off, and you know you have helped them to develop that trust between them, it is really neat,” she says. Helping clients work out how many bulls or rams to put up for sale can be a big quandary. “Most ask: ‘How many should I put in?’
Conversion of sheep and beef farms to forestry is a significant change on the East Coast at the moment, plus trends towards self-shedding sheep, though whatever the issues, working out just what the market wants so you don’t put in too many or too few is always tough. No-one really knows what to expect, which is where preparation, teamwork, canvassing the market and understanding our clients’ objectives comes in,” she says.
Outside work, Emma’s interests don’t differ too much from what she does for a living. After starting out helping others to show cattle a few years ago, she has followed that path and is now the Chair of Angus Youth NZ.
“It’s more cow stuff.
“It meant I had a good relationship with many breeders before I joined the PGG Wrightson Livestock Genetics team. The East Coast is a strong stud stock area, so being involved helped with networking. I’ve also been involved in the World Angus Forum Youth Competitions, which has meant overseas travel to their events, which will hopefully return at some stage in the future,” she says.
Having followed her instincts about what she wanted to do, Emma’s enthusiasm for working with animals has only grown.
“It’s a very rewarding job, and I know how lucky I am to do it. That luck extends to being part of a great team that works for really passionate clients,” she says.
Emma Pollitt, PGG Wrightson East Coast Livestock Genetics Representative