Today we are guests in the village of Belish with Nikolay Chernokozhev, owner of an organic farm where the Montbeliard breed is bred. His farm is located at the foot of the Central Balkan Reserve, Troyan municipality. It is close to the famous Troyan Monastery, from the meadows of which the hard-working farmer gets some of the necessary fodder. We arrive at the farm and the beauty of nature takes our breath away.

– Hello, Mr. Chernokozhev. Today we will steal your time to tell about you and the farm in the village of Belish. Introduce yourself with some words.

– My name is Nikolai Chernokozhev and I raise animals of the Montbeliard breed. I have been involved in animal husbandry since the distant 1991, and since 1997 I have been quite professional. In 2006 I saw the animals of this breed by chance and thanks to Mr. Atanasov I have been breeding them with pleasure for so many years. I liked what they looked like at first and after I inquired in more detail about the characteristics of the breed I realized that Montbeliard was the right choice for the realization of the idea I had at that time – to close the cycle. I wanted to have a small dairy plant next to my farm for processing its own products and producing quality products with proven origin. This turned out to be impossible due to another normative absurdity at the time, which prohibited the construction of dairy enterprises next to a cow farm. This problem was solved years later, as this regulation was repealed, but with age I gave up this dream of mine and decided to develop only my farm as well as possible. In the beginning I raised animals left over from the then cooperative farm – brown, Simmental and black-and-white crosses. I artificially inseminated them with Simmental. In general, I set up the farm to save these animals. When we decided to make a dairy and started preparing the loan documents, we bought the first 10 heifers of the Montbeliard breed. I started inseminating the available animals only with Montbeliard seed material and now I have a main herd of over 80 purebred animals, and the total number of offspring reaches 130. I do not breed other breeds on the farm. My herd is 85% clean and this percentage is constantly growing. – Pasture-grazing, as the farm is certified as organic. Among all other requirements for this certificate is this type of technology. The pastures are my property and I cultivate a total of about 1400 decares of land.

– Were you able to take advantage of state support or is everything built with your own funds?

– The only aid I have received is under measure 4.1. and with the funds I bought equipment with which to cultivate the land more efficiently and effectively, as well as the DE MINIMIS program, which saved us from bankruptcy twice in the most difficult periods for dairy cattle breeding in Bulgaria.

– Since your idea for a dairy has not been realized at the moment, do you encounter difficulties with the realization of the production?

– No, I have been working with the same correct partner for 12 years. My milk is very high quality, with excellent yield and the dairy uses it for cheese and yellow cheese.

– You imported heifers from abroad. Did you have difficulty adapting?

– No, none. The breed is highly adaptable, and the altitude of the area where I chose them is the same as here. This is how the consultants advised me – before buying animals to choose ones from a similar climate and altitude area. Of these 10 animals, I lost a total of 2 in 5 years, and the rest lived between 10 and 12 years. They left me extremely high quality offspring and gave a good start to the herd. I inseminate only artificially and each succeeding generation is getting better.

– Since when have you been a member of the Association and why? What’s the point?

– For 7-8 years. The meaning is great and is not only expressed in the subsidy. Communicating with colleagues in the first place is the best way to “set the clock”. In addition, the Association provides us with indispensable administrative assistance and assistance of any kind and at any time. It was at one of the NARMS meetings that I learned about upcoming insemination technician courses, Mr. Atanasov then connected me with the trainer and this was very useful for my business, because after I finished the course I was no longer dependent on other people and I inseminate myself. your animals. He also connected me with a veterinarian who visits the farms with a video area and examines the animals for gynecological diseases, which solved another problem on the farm. I have many such examples. The benefits of membership are many and I was never denied help when I needed it.

– What is specific about feeding and raising animals on an organic certified farm?

– There are many requirements in this regard. We feed them only our own feed, which does not contain chemicals. We do not use additives. Antibiotic treatment is kept to a minimum and should be fully compliant with the procedure described. Serious discipline on the farm is required and when the rules are followed the results are there. Something that is typical of western farms and that is very important in my opinion is the timely repair of the herd. In Bulgaria it is customary to exploit the animals to the end, and in the West the number of lactations is 4, 5 or a maximum of 6. This solves many health problems such as the presence of somatic cells. Very few colleagues take into account the fact that the first 2 months after calving are extremely important and if the necessary care is taken for the animals during this period, the difference can reach 1000 liters per lactation.

– Why are you an organic producer? What is the meaning in Bulgaria?

– The benefits are huge. I do something quality and different. The milk has other characteristics and its purchase price is higher. There are dairies that want to buy only organic milk. People are increasingly turning to healthy eating and the demand for such products is growing. This gives me the opportunity as an organic producer to have requirements for the conditions and the purchase price, which is a great advantage. There are many inspections and requirements, but since my wife is fully responsible for the documentation and administrative commitments, I have time to deal entirely with the work on the farm. My little son also helps me very actively and we manage to develop the farm ourselves and follow all the rules.

– What advice do you have for young cattle breeders and people in general who are just taking their first steps in animal husbandry?

– To prepare very well – to read, travel and see how people do it in the West and in Bulgaria. Do not rush and learn that the results require effort and there is no way to get from the animals when they have not provided the necessary conditions. This business is not for everyone and if they are not ready to give themselves completely, to develop and train constantly, it is better not to get involved at all. Many colleagues are in a hurry – they have some money and a barn, buy animals and start without having any idea what to do. In France, people are trained from an early age and improve throughout their lives, and there is no way anyone without experience and imagination can raise animals if they do not make the effort to learn.

– Thank you very much for the interesting story and for your time!

– I was pleased and good luck!