Natalie Howes love of agriculture stems from her upbringing on a coastal Southland sheep and beef farm, home to Benatrade Angus, the most Southern Angus stud in New Zealand. From the age of 11, she developed a a passion for showing cattle, a pastime that spans three generations of the Marshall family and throughout high school competed in Rodeo as a barrel racer. Whilst not as prestigious as my previous generations, who hosted the Queen at the Invercargill Royal A&P Show in 1954, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I have had in the beef sector.
Highlights include winning the Overall Senior Herdsperson award at the 2004 Royal Invercargill A&P Show, entitling a trip to South Australia to compete with 140 Youth at the South Australian Heifer Expo; recipient of the 2005 Rabobank New Zealand Angus Youth Charitable Trust Trans Tasman Exchange where I spent 3 months during a gap year between high school and university visiting 10 studs throughout Victoria and New South Wales and competing at local A&P shows and sales, the Australian National Angus Youth Roundup, Sydney Easter Royal Show and attended the Australian Angus Youth leadership course and the University of New England Feeder Steer School.
Following the exchange I returned to New Zealand where I worked on farm and completed an AI course through CRV Ambreed and carried out an AI run in the Southland region, which were to complement and fulfil the practical components of my impending veterinary studies. In 2007 I moved to Palmerston North to compete against 300 other first year students to gain entry into the veterinary course. My lack of understanding of how to effectively study meant my grades were poor and did not place me in the top 30 first year students who were accepted into the veterinary course. I re-evaluated whether I wanted to reapply the following year and realised I had a misconception of the veterinary role and established that my real interest is in research, which was evident during high school when I completed a small meat quality research trial in year 13 for my Agricultural and Horticultural Science class, which I attended at Southland Boys High School due to the subject not being available at my all girls school. I completed my BSc double majoring in Agricultural and Animal Science and improved my grades sufficiently to be accepted into the Honours programme. During my Honours year I completed a small meat science research project with AngusPure and picked up Agribusiness to balance my science degree, which I completed remotely from Southland as my now-husband left university to begin a dairy managers role.
Following my Honours degree I worked for two years in a technical sales role where it was reinforced that my passion is science. In 2013 I married my husband, we became equity partners in a 1000-cow 50:50 sharemilking operation and I shifted to Dunedin Monday to Friday to complete my PhD in Food Science through the University of Otago while based at AbacusBio in Dunedin. My PhD was a large collaboration with AbacusBio, Alliance, Headwaters NZ, Agricom, AgResearch and NZ Beef + Lamb Genetics, which investigated the interactions between forage composition and omega-3 in lamb as part of the Omega Lamb Primary Growth Partnership Programme – now known as “Te Mana lamb”.
I completed and passed my PhD this year (2017) and have been working full time for AbacusBio on a range of projects, including industry funded projects where I relish the opportunity to work with and learn from farmers, to the other end of the scale in quantitative genetics, an area of strength for AbacusBio and an area that I am excited to learn more about.
I am fortunate to work for a fantastic company where I am able to be continually challenged in a supportive environment.
I write this enroute to Africa where I will be travelling for two months followed by a relocation to Edinburgh where I will be working for AbacusBio International in a similar line of work. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities received in Agriculture and for the past four years have enjoyed sharing this experience with school students through the NZ Futureintech initiative that has enabled me to travel to local schools to speak about my continually developing career in Agricultural research.
My love of Agriculture now spans more than showing and judging beef cattle, and encompasses an amazing network of people, and is taking me to the other side of the world – something my younger self would’ve never considered possible.
One word describing how you feel about being an AgWomen: Honoured