Miranda reflects on development and leadership for Agrileadership Week

Miramda Timmerman

2022 Scholar Miranda Timmerman reflects on development and leadership for Agrileadership Week

Taking a convoluted route into agriculture I studied Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol before going into traditional veterinary practice in West Wales. I worked as a locum vet in the UK and New Zealand while doing my Nuffield Scholarship, alongside travelling to Africa and South America. In mid 2023 I was approached for my current role, Farms Technology and Development Manager, on a 10,000 milking cow dairy farm in Qatar.

My role involves understanding and assessing the strength and opportunities in our management practices, then developing ways we can perform more effectively. This often utilises technology to provide new solutions. Consequently I work with many different teams across the business to get projects off the ground - building consensus for new initiatives from the parlour to the Board.

Each day is completely different; I may be organising milkers one morning or working alongside the healthman in the cow pens the next. Sometimes I’m needed to do surgery, others are spent on the new ventures area of the business, planning farms in Algeria - from the layout and design to biosecurity considerations or vaccination programs.

Although I have only worked in this role for 6 months we have had some good successes involving the health team. We entirely changed how we perform whole herd vaccinations, from using headlocks in the pens, to vaccinating the herd on the rotary parlours. When initiating any new process, I spend time doing it myself with some team members to ensure that any issues are quickly ironed out and the entire team are on board with the change.

No matter what I try to lead from the front getting stuck in wherever needed, be that bolusing cows with pH monitors or carrying replacement cow wearables around to finding the odd missing cow on vaccine day! Recently I project managed the installation of red lighting throughout the 2,500 cow drystock unit. The idea came from a consultant’s report to increase colostrum quality and quantity. I researched wavelengths and lux needed throughout a 24 hour cycle, involving finance, procurement, maintenance and our electricians to install them in 4 barns alongside timers and some shaded white lighting for specific maternity areas. This has led to us having enough colostrum and transition milk that we are now able to feed it to calves for their first few days of life.

In a diverse team of a dozen nationalities leaders take many forms. The best leaders in our teams transcend the language barriers through making things practical. For example, each workstation for the rotary parlour has coloured floor mats installed. These are more comfortable for the milkers to stand on and ensures that strip, dip, wipe and cups occur at the right stage of the milking process.

Nuffield gave me great access to hear leadership stories from across the agricultural sector and around the globe. Two main areas have consistently been highlighted; how important people are to the success of any business and the need for a long term vision. I bear these lessons in mind daily, ensuring that any changes I advocate have the future of our people and our cows at their heart.