Timmerman to receive Feeding Quality Forum honors
By Miranda Reiman
Each week, Nebraska cattleman Gerald Timmerman would flip open the Sunday Omaha World- Herald to scan the want ads… “just in case.”
“It was amazing back then, there was quite a few jobs I’d fill in, and I haven’t looked lately, but I think it would be pretty narrow what I’d be qualified for today,” says Timmerman with a chuckle.
Sure enough, he didn’t finish high school—a chance to cowboy in Texas called in his junior year—but his resume quickly grew with life experience.
Timmerman will add another as he receives the 2018 Feeding Quality Forum (FQF) Industry Achievement Award later this month for his longtime dedication to putting the consumer first.
He’ll be honored at a banquet during the conference, August 28 to 29 in Sioux City, Iowa.
Timmerman was the oldest of four brothers who grew up around the family’s Springfield, Neb., feedyard where, “The work ethic was pushed on us pretty hard, but then we got a passion for it.”
Leo Timmerman did his four sons “a great favor” by selling, rather than giving it to them, the son says. “We had to assume a lot of responsibility. He didn’t sign on any credit or anything for us.”
Instead, they built it with hard work and a simple business plan. There was no hierarchy or titles, no company vehicles, and no bonuses.
“I think we went about close to 10 years at 7 days a week without ever taking a day off, every one of us, and as we went through we just drew a salary,” he says. “All of us would have to say that if it wasn’t for our wives, we could have never made it.”
He and his wife, Lynn, have been married for 54 years, adding five children and as many grandchildren, while surviving the rollercoaster that is the feeding business.
“In some respects, some of those things I think are good because it will humble you,” he says. “You get to going along pretty good and you get to feeling pretty good about yourself, and you get in one of those and you’ll get a little humility back.”
Today, the brothers and their sons have independent operations and joint ventures. They have ranches in Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado and Texas, feedyards in three states and interests in other beef industry enterprises.
Over the years, Timmerman watched mechanization, cattle genetics and marketing change the beef business. He credits the Certified Angus Beef ® brand for guiding cattlemen toward the kind of product that builds beef demand.
“They took the whole cattle industry, not just the black Angus, and proved to the industry that consistency and quality will sell and that’s what the people were craving,” he says. “We were in the commodity meat business. Choice was Choice. Prime was Prime. Select was Select or they were Good (grades) at that time, and I think the restaurant business, they were never assured of that same consistency. CAB is the one that revolutionized that.”
Timmerman is quick to pick up new technology, if it’s practical. If a drone can’t travel far enough to check windmills, maybe satellites will work. He’s direct and decisive. It’s hard for him to understand why others resist progress.
“I’m a consumer advocate because I believe you have to produce what the consumer wants, not what you think he ought to have,” he says. “If you give them what they want, you can rest assured you’re going to have a profit. You’ll be rewarded for your work.”
It’s that attitude that caught the attention of the past FQF Industry Achievement Award winners, who nominated the feeder for the honor.
“The Timmermans are just one of the really good cattle feeding families in Nebraska, coming from humble beginnings,” says retired longtime CAB vice president Larry Corah. “Gerald has always shown leadership in keeping the consumer first, no matter what everybody else thought.”
At 78, Timmerman is still highly involved in the business, though he tries to spend more time in the saddle, making up for lost time on his boyhood dream of being a cowboy. You’re just as likely to find him at a branding as you are a board meeting.
“When you get in the business you’ve got to be smart,” Timmerman says. “Smart isn’t IQ—just savvy, hungry and have a little humility and you can have a pretty good career.”