Today we are guests at the home of the creators of the sites www.govedovad.com and www.ovce-kozi.com – Mihail Mihailov and Tanya Dimitrova. They are our good friends and partners and are the first in Bulgaria who provide the native breeders with the opportunity to be informed objectively, about every novelty and good practices, as well as about not so pleasant examples from the reality in our country.
For almost a year the website www.govedovad.com has been working in cooperation with the website of the Association for Montbeliard and Simmental www.narms.bg and has published a large part of the materials and interviews with our members and specialists, which allows to give more publicity to all the problems and stories they share with us.
We arrive in Sliven and the kind hosts greet us at home, armed with cake and coffee, which will not save them from awkward questions, of course!
Who are Tanya Dimitrova and Mihail Mihailov, how do they assess the transition in animal husbandry, in which they were participants and witnesses, and what motivates them to continue to develop the unique websites in Bulgaria, they will tell us now.
– Hello family! Who are Tanya and Mikhail and how did you come to the projects you are successfully developing? Let’s start with the lady.
Tanya: – Hello, I’m very glad you’re here! My name is Tanya Dimitrova and I am exactly 60 years old. I am an agricultural engineer by education. I was a selector of the Black and Colorful Association. We have been living and working with Mikhail for 13 years now. In 2016, we created the site www.govedovad.com entirely for personal satisfaction.
Misho: – I am Mikhail Mihailov. I graduated with a degree in zootechnics, which is already a zoo engineering specialty. I went through all the steps in this field in my professional path – through a regional zootechnician in sheep breeding, head of the department “Sheep breeding”, director of the largest breeding center in Bulgaria in Sliven, which had over 140 bulls and developed many different activities. Then I was abroad for 7-8 years, where a person gains very useful life experience. After returning to Bulgaria, I became the Executive Director of the National Union of Cattle Breeders in Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, in the period 2004-2008, several breeding associations were established in Bulgaria, among which was NARMS. They were legalized, but in reality they had no activity. In 2005, Dr. Omainikov and Mariana Akhladova and I were the first three to organize the work of the first working Breeding Association. We were supported by the Ministry of Agriculture with a sum and we were left on the “green meadow”. We had no office, no company car or any working conditions. We literally started with a bucket for measuring milk with 50-60 bottles. At that time, the Executive Agency only allowed the control of farms on which no selection activity had been carried out so far. We gathered 2,000 cows “stubbornly” and started doing what NARMS is doing now. With a lot of perseverance and hard work then we tried to gather the maximum amount of information. Samples were taken every month and we returned the results to the farmers as quickly as possible. We also started making random plans. The following year, other associations joined in this example. I am extremely happy that today I can see a large part of the ideas that we had at that time realized and the Association for Montbeliard and Simmental is an example of this in every respect. Then we and the farmers started literally from scratch, and today most of the first steps taken then have been brought to a successful result.
Then we created a database for processing the collected information, which was not bad. We had an idea to make a website, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time. However, your page is exactly what a breeding association’s website should be!
There is a story that I always tell and I will tell it to you to imagine how new it was then for both the farmers and us. We go to the first control in a farm with 20 animals in Sliven. The three of us enter with Dr. Omaynikov and Mariana with the bucket, bottles and scales. The farmer was so upset and worried about our presence then that after washing the milking udder he immediately started sealing the tits before milking the cow.
Things returned to normal over time, and gradually farmers and associations began to work together normally.
– Were there any problems with the transfer of the breeding activity from the state institutions to the breeding associations?
Misho: – In principle, every state institution holds the “pie” and does not drop it! Every effort is made to make them “heroes”. And in terms of breeding, there was that moment, and that’s one of the reasons I left my civil service because I was in conflict with my management. In 2002, mass imports of frozen semen from Europe and America began. Our central management insisted that we sell the one produced in our country, which for the most part was not in sequins. Many of the bulls were not tested and there is no need to hide it – everyone knew that this was not the best that could be offered to Bulgarian farmers.
We turned to the executive agency to use the services of the laboratory for milk quality. Coincidentally, it was I who implemented the project for this laboratory. It is built on 90% with funding from German farms and donated according to documents to Bulgarian breeders. When we turned to the Agency for permission to use this laboratory, they returned an offer with not twice, but three times higher price to examine our samples! Absolute nonsense!
This led us to find another way to test our samples, which we do not regret at all. In this way, the state institutions “put a cross” on their own laboratory and although it is very well technically equipped, it is not loaded enough at all!
Tanya: – I want to insert that there was a collision, ie. the civil service had to control its people at the time it exercised control over the breeding activity. It turns out, however, that at the moment this same service has requirements for breeding associations, which it itself did not cover at that time.
– You are like a walking archive of the development of animal husbandry in Bulgaria and you have witnessed the most murky times of the transition. Is it over yet?
Misho: – These murky times are not over and there is no way they will end this way. There was an agreement with Europe, which stated that as early as 2006 the state structures should be terminated with regard to selection, and there are still breeds that are controlled by the State Agency. There are currently so-called “Genetic Resources Council”, which is also headed by the State, which means that whatever it says, it will be. The 70% selection is still supported by the State, and it is clear that whoever pays the bill orders the music.
On the one hand, the state is strict, which makes it difficult to act in places, and where it is really necessary to have control, this strictness is not valid! I mean, it is not realistic in our country, where we have 50-60,000 real dairy black-and-white cows, to be controlled by 3 associations! In practice, there is not even a black-and-white breed in Bulgaria – everything here is Holstein! Since 2002 we have been importing only Holstein. Tens of thousands of Holstein heifers have been imported and are being handled only, and according to documents we still write that they are black and colored. What a selection we are talking about! There is no breeding association of the Holstein breed in Bulgaria, but in fact all animals are like that!
The case is similar for you with the documentary absurdity with the so-called breed “milk Simmental”, which is in fact simply Simmental, as recorded in the documents of all imported animals. Breed “Simmental” does not exist!
There are thousands more examples of such state absurdities!
There can be no 3 Association for the black-and-white breed in Bulgaria and all three have a different breeding program! They process their data in a completely different way. A few years ago I read a report from the Ministry of Agriculture in which the average milk yield of dairy cows had to be presented and they had listed such values for the three associations separately. There is no one to calculate how much it is for them! And at the moment there is no one to calculate such a value for all dairy cows.
Taking into account what is happening in other countries, there should be a single common information center in Bulgaria, which calculates and provides accurate summary data of the information received from the breeding associations.
We regularly publish such summary data from government sites in Western countries. We are very far from this level here.
– In many ways, the chaos is obvious. Do you think this is intentional or is it just a lack of organization?
Tanya: – It is not intentional, but a lack of organization. Most farmers are only interested in the subsidy, not in the intended use.
– Before the subsidy, how were the farmers motivated to participate in breeding associations?
Misho: – This is a very good question. When we started breeding, farmers did not receive a subsidy. The only thing they received was a supplement per liter of milk and only those who had enrolled in the so-called RAMPs (subdivisions of associations). At that time the membership fee was very small and we had no problem paying it, but even then it was felt that some members had the secret idea that one day the animals under selective control would receive a subsidy. This happened and in the last 3 years the subsidy is about BGN 600, which is not a small amount at all. Our breeders want to “catch up” with Western farms, but do not realize that in many countries do not receive such large sums.
For example, in Germany you get 5-6 cents per liter of milk, which means about 400 euros per animal at their standard. I don’t think there is anything for Bulgarian farmers to complain about! There, this supplement is obtained for cows with a milk yield of about 8 tons, and in our country animals with 4 tons of milk take 300 euros!
Tanya: – Yesterday an acquaintance told me that she gave up the selection because she prefers to sell her milk in bottles instead of proving it!
– Who came up with the idea for the site www.govedovad.com?
Tanya: – The idea came as a result of the fact that so far we have been developing the website of the Black and Colorful Association. Coincidentally, we decided to end this cooperation and create our own independent electronic media, which allows us to freely express our positions.
Misho: – We made the first site literally stubbornly. We wanted to present things more professionally in animal husbandry. There was such a need. We had already gained experience with the website of the Black and Colorful Association, which we developed for about a year and a half. It was more specialized, our idea was larger. Our site aims to provide more comprehensive information on cattle breeding.
The idea was at the same time with the “gossip” things that people like to read in their free time, to publish more specialized articles that are useful and informative.
Our experience has shown that highly specialized articles are read by fewer people, as the subject matter is difficult and still requires some level of competence to be understood. For this reason, we switched to the other option – we tell the specialized topics in a more understandable and human language.
However, most farmers like to read about other farmers, which you do. In my opinion, this is the best method of informing.
Tanya: – There are the most comments under such articles! People trust their peers the most! We recently started a series of posts about a girl who, after finishing her education, returns to her parents’ farm and, gaining experience, starts writing a blog about everything she encounters in her work – every case and every manipulation. You can read the series in “The Adventures of a Country Girl”. It is very interesting and there is even a cesarean section. I would call this blog a “textbook from the source.” There is also a gradation, because in a few years she wrote an article on the same topic, but with much more experience and at a higher level. I recommend this series to all farmers – they will learn a lot!
Such materials are most interesting to the audience – from farmers to farmers!
We also try to publish articles that deal with the regulations in their infancy, as our farmers think and raise their heads when it’s all over. When the assignment for the ordinance, for the law, for the project is launched, we try to inform them. To react. Unfortunately, the reactions are not many! In general, they react when a fact is over and only complain. Everyone manages individually!
– What interesting things did you plan for the audience?
Tanya: – We have a great column – “Weekend – Cattle News – 120 seconds”!
In it for 120 seconds we summarize everything interesting in the world and in our country. We always select the most important and curious events and facts to cover.
At www.ovce-kozi.com I recommend the section “Horns and Hooves”.
Misho: – We have made a weekly ranking with TOP SIX of the most read articles for the past week, which remain on the title page.
We have planned to make separate tidy sections concerning the legislation, so that everyone who needs to be informed.
Tanya: – We will publish the normative documents, and we will not retell them like the other sites. It is important to publish the documents verbatim, not to make free interpretations!
The information on our pages is completely reliable and it is no coincidence that we have reviews from so many other countries!
– Where do you still get the enthusiasm to do this huge work for an independent media?
Tanya: – Do you know how nice it is that people everywhere know us by what we do. Over time, the pages gained popularity and farmers recognized them as a favorite space to keep informed.
However, some colleagues retell our articles very incorrectly and sometimes discredit the “heroes” of our stories in this way. I appeal to them to publish our articles correctly and verbatim, as we do with interesting materials on other pages!
– How long have you known Mr. Atanasov?
Misho: – From the last century! (laughs) In 1994, I signed the permits for the export of lambs from Bulgaria. One day Nasko Atanasov, your chairman, came into my office and asked me where to pay the fee that was due for the export of animals. We went to the cash register together and after he paid he told me that he was surprised that I didn’t take all his money! We have known each other for a long time!
He has always been a perfectionist. On his farm were the first mattresses for cows and separate cages for calves with additional windbreaks. The farm shone with purity!
– Are they trying to censor you over the years?
Tanya: – No, never.
Misho: – Many times I thought that someone would threaten or oppress us, but it has not happened so far. There will always be dissatisfied, of course, but that is our job.
– Thank you for the warm welcome and interesting stories! We will prepare with more questions and we will take advantage of your hospitality!
Tanya: – The NARMS team is always welcome in our home!
Misho: – See you soon!