Johanna Messner-Ringerthaler’s story is one that is fun to read and makes you simply want to know more! She and her husband Philipp live with their four girls Emma, Anna, Sofia und Josefa, 3-years old quadruplets, on her parents farm in the outskirts of Salzburg/Austria.

Philipp and Johanna run a vet clinic tin Salzberg, where all creatures are welcome — big and small. This busy team is out and about on farms a lot. Their part of Salzburg is mostly dairy farming but sheep and goats are starting to become more common. The average number of cows on a farm is about 16, and most have names and are very special to the owners.


The weekends when they are not on call, Johanna and her family spend in Italy on Philipp’s family farm in the Dolomites where they keep sheep and two coldbloods.

Johanna is no stranger to farm life as she grew up on one and loved it. When she got home from school, she would always head straight for the stable to saddle up her pony and to check on their cows, calves and much loved billy-goat. The farm vets were her heroes. In the case of calving, colic, or one of their cats being run over, there was always quick and professional help. This was very important for young Johanna — and very, very interesting!

The young nature lover adored the farm and everything around the farm, from doing the hay work in summer, to feeding the calves, to milking the cows — she was sure she would never ever move away. Johanna attended farmer school for three years and graduated as a agricultural skilled worker. After that she surprised herself by worked as a banker but it was quickly clear that she could not be inside a building all day. This farm girl missed the animals and the farm work too much.

Since veterinary medicine interested her from such a young age, Johanna began to study her A-levels in the evenings. With these in hand she would be allowed to go to University in Vienna to study Veterinary medicine.

This plan took an unexpected, frustrating but brilliant turn when she failed her English exam and she had to find a way to learn the language! She went straight to the travel agent to book a flight to New Zealand. She didn’t know much about the country but knew farming was important and had a gut feeling she might get a good farming job. “Thank God for that — that trip was the best decision ever and it introduced me to the best country and friends in the world!!!”

Out of pure luck, one of her aunties worked for a family in Salzburg who was friend of a close friend to Sam and Catriona Willams from Little Avondale Stud in Masterton. A few phone calls and emails later, her visa process was underway.

As Johanna arrived, Catriona just had a bad riding accident so Johanna was able to look after her horses before changing to the team at Little Avondale to work for Sam with the Thoroughbreds. Straight away Johanna was in love with the breed, the country, and with her job. She was thrilled to meet girls almost just like herself: farming girls, nature lovers, and animal lovers!

Her team looked after her very well as it was hard, but fun work. Her highlight was the daily work in the breeding season with the equine vet. She returned home to Salzberg and made her A-Levels, with success. Then returned to Little Avondale for one more season simply because she loved the place, the people and the job.

When she returned she ventured to Vienna she studied veterinary medicine and met her husband, Philipp. Together they went back to New Zealand twice and worked at the University of Liverpool, Leahurst Animal Hospital before settling in Salzburg.


In June 2014 Johanna and Philipp had four girls - yes four at once! Emma, Anna, Sofia and Josefa were born and their parents are excited to raise them as farm and vet girls. The young ladies already love it as much as their mum does. They love to be outside with Johanna, from rubbing a newborn calf to little feeding jobs. From the very first weeks Johanna took them with her on her horses and now they are an age where they can ride them in the yard alone.

Johanna believes a childhood on a farm has made everything she is currently doing possible. It is special to her and is excited to pass this, along with her love for New Zealand, to her girls.

Johanna, your girls are so lucky to have a mum and role model like you. We can’t wait to see what your AgWoman chicks will grow to do in the future. Thank you for the passion and life you bring to our industry. We are proud to have you on our team!