Dairy Women's Network is joining forces with robotics company Lely to raise awareness about milking cows automatically.
And the former lawyer and human behaviour and leadership expert hopes a profile of the prestigious Dairy Womens Network national award will enable her to help get that conversation started.
The industry needs to shift from only one way of measuring success,” she told Dairy News.
“At the moment the one way of measuring success is financial success. Having that culture that measures our success purely on financial success or failure is a big contributor to the increasing rates of depression and suicide that we have.
“We need to have other key performance indicators (KPIs) of success -- an understanding of what we as humans need in order to thrive.
“Things like connection and quality of relationships, and a sense of identity and purpose which goes beyond being just a farmer or just a mum… we are much more than that.
“As soon as we understand that and embrace all the other aspects of ourselves, the better it will be for us as individuals and for our families, farming businesses, communities and our industry.”
Manikam, originally from South Africa, milks 600 cows with her husband and three children in Winton, Southland. In 2007 they were named Southland Sharemilker of the Year, before progressing to their current equity partnership.
A former lawyer, Manikam transitioned from dairy farming to leadership coaching after receiving her coach certification in 2012.
She is the founding director of Iceberg Coaching and a strategic consultant for Farmstrong, working to support the wellbeing of farming communities.
She is a trustee of the Southern Dairy Development Trust, a coach and facilitator of the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s Escalator Programme and a Federated Farmers Southland executive member.
Manikam says the industry needs to collectively agree to prioritise people and support its people to find ways to thrive.
“We need to put people at the front and centre of everything we do... to lift our culture [and] keep growing and thriving.” That’s how the industry can keep improving, she says.
She refers to research that shows when people are happy the positive impact is wide reaching. Focus on people’s happiness will help develop the industry’s untapped potential for improved environmental stewardship, animal husbandry, staff management and increased productivity.
“You are leaving benefits on the table if you don’t prioritise people’s happiness because there is such a positive impact on everything else. I am not the only one who sees the link between increased happiness and, for example, increased productivity.
A number of highly successful companies are focussing on the happiness of their workforce.”
At the DWN conference the chief executive-agribusiness of Theland Farm Group, Justine Kidd, talked about their focus as a group on four things – happy people, happy cows, clean air and clean water.
“They are a highly successful group and the first thing they focus on is happy people,” says Manikam.
Visionary from way back
For 10 years Manikam was mostly a stay-at-home mum and a supporter of their farming business.
As the kids got older she had to rethink her identity.
“Like a lot of dairy farming women I had lost sight of what made me come alive.”
After much searching and talking with her husband Donald she kept returning to thoughts of how she enjoyed being part of people’s journeys and seeing them thrive, “and how valuable that was for individuals and everyone around them”.
“That is when I did a lot of research and I took a big step in backing myself to do my coaching certification in 2012 and then to setting up my coaching business. That evolved and led to wonderful opportunities with the Agri-Womens Development Trust and other organisations.”
She started as a coach and progressed into facilitation and leadership development with the Agri-Womens Development Trust. She is now a consultant working with DWN, Farm Strong, MPI and Landcare Trust, with a focus on growing and developing people.
“My core belief is that people are the most important part of a successful farming industry.”
Getting involved in governance also helped her develop the view that people are a core part of the industry.