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Today we do not go on the mountain roads or any remote point of Bulgaria, but we go to the capital, where we are waiting for Georgi Dobrinov – owner of a farm with purebred Simmental in Obelya.

Mr. Dobrinov is a breeder with extensive experience and a very interesting history. Apart from being the owner of a cattle farm, he breeds horses of the Danube horse breed.

How animal husbandry developed in the years of transition, what are the problems of the city farm and what are the lessons from many years of experience, he told us over a cup of coffee on a working Saturday morning.

– Please introduce yourself in a few words.

– Hello, my name is Georgi Dobrinov from Sofia. I graduated in interior architecture and furniture production. I am married with two wonderful daughters.

– Your education has nothing to do with the business you are currently developing. What did you do before and how did the idea for a cattle farm come about?

– I had the prospect to develop in the field of architecture, but the love for animals prevailed and animal husbandry became my main and only activity. There have always been animals in my family and this attitude towards them was brought up in me from an early age. Horses were my first great passion, which in the early 90’s was transferred to cattle breeding, when I created my first own cattle farm.

My first farm was for rent. I raised mainly black-and-white and Simmental animals. In the 90’s many animals were sold from the cooperatives in liquidation and I had the opportunity to buy from Pirdop 25 heifers – Simmental and brown cattle. I quickly realized that Simmental is the breed I want to breed. Since I was paying rent to the military, I thought that I would be able to buy it later, but it turned out that these 57 decares in Sofia were an “appetizing” investment for many influential people, with whom I could not fight. In 2000, I bought the current farm in the Obelya district and moved to it in 2006. Until then, pigs and horses were raised there, and I had to make a significant reconstruction to adapt the conditions for raising cattle. This, of course, involved a serious investment of own funds.

– Were you unable to take advantage of any of the support programs?

– With the exception of the subsidies I receive, I have not taken advantage of any programs and I do not want to take advantage, because honestly, given the conditions for the development of this activity in Bulgaria, I do not know how long I will be a breeder. Assistance programs are a long-term commitment that I could not make. The reason for my insecurity is mainly the lack of labor – a huge problem in every area of ​​business in Bulgaria! Support under a measure obliges the activity to develop for at least 5 years, and in the absence of workers one does not know how long and how long it can last.

– At the moment, how do you manage to cope with the labor crisis?

– I have built two houses for workers with all the necessary living conditions – new air conditioners, bathrooms, furniture, and the pay I offer is very good. All overheads are borne by me. However, the ads I’ve posted are currently being called mostly by dishonest, unreliable people I can’t count on in the long run.

– Wouldn’t it be more profitable to invest in farm automation, which would largely eliminate this dependence on the human factor?

– I agree, but the need for milkers remains because I can’t afford a robot.

– The farm is positioned in Sofia, which is the largest consumer market in Bulgaria. How do you sell your products?

– Honestly, for 12 years the purchase price of milk has been around 60-65 stotinki, and the costs are going up. I had hoped over the years that there would be adequate state aid per liter of milk, but this did not happen. I have often wondered how it is possible for Hungarian milk to arrive in Bulgaria, the final price of which, including transport, is 65 stotinki. When I dug around, I realized that they have a state subsidy, which we “slept” during the time of Kuneva and co. In addition, they have super quality animals. If with us the maximum milk yield directly forces is 7 tons, then with them it reaches 10-12 tons.

– How do you think they manage to achieve this?

– Selection and quality feed. I can’t come across quality feed at the moment. In 2005 I had a compound feed warehouse. At that time there was still animal husbandry in Bulgaria and there were no such restrictive laws under Art. 44 for 800 m distance from settlement. People also watched animals in the yards of houses here in my hometown of Obelya. Then I took recipes from different feed mills and I am familiar with the levels of the grain component, with the micro and macro elements. I still keep these tables. I went, for example, to Pomorie for an hour, for microelements to the then VIAND workshop. Thanks to them, the pigs grew literally like mushrooms – in 90 days they reached 100 kg.- You have extensive experience in proper nutrition. What advice would you give to colleagues who are still looking for the optimal solution for their herd.

– Quality food, as I said, is of paramount importance in dairy cows, especially roughage – silage, haylage and others. There are colleagues who use only alfalfa and hay, but the results are not the same. Silage is an important basis for a balanced diet and helps animals feel good. I personally produce silage every year. Last year we even produced too much and sold it for methane after leaving what we needed. Tomorrow we start silage again. We produce our own hay, alfalfa and corn silage. We cultivate a total of 1300 decares, of which 400 are meadows for grazing animals. The meadows are ennobled with a grass mixture with 7 types of grasses. I have often observed the behavior of animals – when we let them into pastures with natural and artificial grasses, they immediately go to the artificial ones.

Pasture improvement is an expensive investment because there are costs for seeds, special seeder, cultivation, etc. I chose a grass mixture from Bulgaria, from Variety Seeds in Sofia. I am currently preparing another 150 decares, which I will also sow with this product. It is definitely worth it and it is important if the farm has the opportunity to produce its own roughage, but the work is huge and there is no labor and it is very difficult.

– You said that there used to be animal husbandry. Isn’t it now?

– Many people have given up and this is quite natural in these regulations. While I owned the feed warehouse, I initially sent a truck twice a week to load it. Over time, refueling took place once a month and not because the farmers gave up our services, but gave up the activity.

– If I understand correctly, you have become a cattle breeder with great enthusiasm, which, however, has gradually disappeared over the years.

– Indeed, I did not lack enthusiasm…, I do not lack now, but the demotivating factors are there. I tried to do everything necessary, depending on me – selection, selection, conditions and nutrition, but the daily obstacles of our state reality inevitably affect a person’s desire and belief that the efforts will be adequately rewarded. The only thing that saves me from giving up is the fact that I am registered under Regulation 26, which allows me direct sales. I make cheese and yellow cheese on my own recipe, which I sell from the farm. I also sell fresh milk. Fortunately, my products are in great demand.

Regarding the attitude of the state towards cattle breeding, in my opinion, a distinction should be made between those farmers who raise animals only for subsidies and others who strive for quality and healthy production at the cost of all their free time and money. At the moment, support is often provided on a general basis, which strongly demotivates those who are really making an effort and really building something meaningful.

– At the moment, how many and what kind of animals are on the farm?

– The cattle are 55, of which 40 are dairy cows and 15 adolescents – mainly Simmental breed and a little Red Holstein.

– Why did you choose these two breeds? Are you trying to balance quality and quantity?

– First of all, the animals of both breeds are very beautiful. A very beautiful herd was obtained, and even in their crosses there is no dominant black-and-white gene, which preserves their aesthetic appearance.

The other, of course, primary factor is production with excellent quality indicators.

– Although you have been growing Simmental for a long time, you have been a member of NARMS only since last year. Why have you postponed so far?

– I did not lack desire and I am happy that last year with the Association and with Mr. Atanasov as its chairman we shook hands. Our mutual friend introduced us. We worked well immediately, both in terms of administrative assistance and in the selection, reproduction, delivery of seed. None of the offspring this year dropped out of my personal selection, which is very indicative of how I have coped so far. I am pleased with my cooperation with NARMS – especially with the understanding and quick reaction.

I am also the chairman of the Danube Horse Association, but unfortunately this is missing in our country at the expense of disagreements. I personally had a great desire to have a common cause and association with my colleagues, but unfortunately we are not able to achieve this desire of mine at the moment. I attribute it to our Bulgarian mentality, which often prevents us from being united and instead of moving forward, we go down. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of horses this year. Personally, I am proud that despite everything I managed to create many quality stallions, which are still used for breeding.

– You said that you do not want to make long-term plans, but with a favorable development of things, what would you like to improve on the farm?

– Central milk duct and fertilizer belt. Of course, the work of optimizing the conditions on a farm never ends, especially when one demands more and more of oneself. I had an idea to apply for measure 4.1, but the deadline was until yesterday. What stopped me was the lack of manpower. I have given an assignment to an employment company to find workers from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, and they have already found several families. Unfortunately, however, the COVID 19 crisis is slowing down and freezing everything, and we are currently on hold.

– What conditions do you offer in case someone is interested in working for you?

– The salary of a family is above the national average with all living conditions provided and all overheads paid. As I said, we built two new houses for the workers with air conditioners and all the necessary appliances. The furniture is also brand new. The herd is not large and all working conditions are provided.

– If you find workers and everything develops according to your optimistic expectations, how do you imagine yourself in 5 years?

– I would increase the herd. I have a base that is my property and I would build my own dairy to produce products that meet my quality criteria!

– If you go back in time now and know what you will go through, would you choose the same path or would you realize yourself in architecture?

-Yes, definitely. I have been a breeder for many years, and my colleagues know that this is not just a profession, it is a diagnosis.

I will also tell the young people who are just starting this path not to give up. It is difficult and one must be ready to do everything yourself. I still do it – mowing, baling, transport, silage, administration and solving all sorts of problems and situations that arise daily on the farm. I would even milk the cows myself, but my health does not allow it.

In the light of my experience, I would advise all young colleagues to bet on good selection, proper nutrition and good sales of dairy products. To invest in their quality employees, because as I said, the workforce is a decisive factor in this activity. To be ready to give yourself completely and always strive for more – even if it is difficult, the efforts are crowned with success, sooner or later!

– Thank you for sharing your experience and history with colleagues. We will visit you again to show us some new and positive news. For example, a new dairy!

– And I thank you and I will be waiting for you!