As the Head of Business Development at Bio Nusantara Technology (BNT), Satia Pratiwi, or more commonly known as Teta, is in charge of the cattle and palm integration model in the company she works for. A woman leading a male dominated industry, of both palm and cattle, her role is not only challenging but rewarding.
Teta had to learn from scratch about cattle breeding when BNT decided to have a cattle farm in their 6,000 hectares area of palm plantation. She graduated with a degree in industrial engineering and has extensive experience in business development.
“But I myself doesn’t have a background in cattle farm. Then the management decided there has to be an intense coordination with the business development, we should not just have cattle but do not have clear plans for managing them,” she said. It took a while before BNT finally bought cows.
The company started their pilot project in 2013 with Balinese cattle, but the result was not as they had expected. Teta and her team refused to give up and decided to try another breed of cattle. Two years later, BNT tried the integrated system with 26 Brahman Cross cattle imported from Australia. The outlook seemed promising.
In 2016, an opportunity arrived to partner with IACCB. IACCB delivered 246 Australian imported heifers and 13 bulls to BNT which, when coupled with the already existing herd in the BNT, multiplied the size of the herd. As a result, the number of cattle that they manage has increased greatly. BNT is using a combination of the ‘breed-lot’ model (where cattle are bred in pens) and grazing under palms.
At first, Teta admitted they went through many trials and errors. “For the palm oil industry, the culture is very different from cattle breeding. With palms, if you don’t fertilize (the trees) for a couple of months it’s ok, it can wait. But with cows, you don’t give them leaves the next day their BCS will go down. And if the calves don’t feed they can die days later,” she said.
Teta said the key in changing the mindset of the people is determination. While it is rare for a woman to be in a leadership position, especially in palm or cattle industry, Teta has paved a way for other women to thrive in BNT.
For example, the veterinarian working for BNT, Yulissa Fitrianis, who said that she has learned about livestock management while working directly with Teta. Teta believes all women and men must be given the same opportunity according to their potential. “We never set limits for women to work in this sector as long as they are capable to manage the position," she said.
Paulina Yuniarsih is another leader in the cattle industry. The young woman is the breeding manager at Great Giant Livestock, a position traditionally reserved for men. Paulina graduated with a background in livestock and cattle management. She admitted that being a woman, she had to put in extra effort compare to others.
“And now I’m given the responsibility for cattle breeding which is a complicated subject,” she said. Paulina is one of 11 women out of 83 people working in the breeding department. That means many of her staff are men.
As a leader, Paulina likes to be hand-on with the cattle management at her company. Although she holds a high position, she still spends a lot of time in the field. “Whatever I do in my work, I always check the condition in the field. That means I combine office and field work, I’d say about 40 percent of my time I spend in the field,” she explained.
Paulina believes men and women working in the cattle industry can complement each other. She said that men may be better at work that requires strength but women pay more attention to detail. That is why she thinks a woman’s touch in the breeding department is crucial.
“In cattle breeding, we work within the scale of 8,000 cows. The data recording and inventory must be strict, that is the crucial point of this department. But with my male colleagues, I like to browse ideas with them, and some of the work they can do faster. There are some things I can’t handle such as mechanical work, fixing the cage,” she added.
Paulina thanked the support of Dayu Ariasintawati, the Managing Director of GGL. She is described as a passionate and persistent leader who has a keen eye for details. Her approach to management is based on empowering and having mutual respect.
Through Dayu, Paulina learned how to be a good leader. “She motivates us in the team. As a woman, it is very inspiring to learn from another woman. And although she’s the director, she’s willing to help the team with the (breeding) system. Her positive empowerment is contagious to the whole team,” she said. Paulina hopes there can be more women leading the cattle industry in Indonesia.