Our meeting today is with Dr. Ismet Shabanov – owner of a farm in the town of Omurtag. Dr. Shabanov is a respected and successful businessman who from the very beginning of the democratic changes in our country has been managing a large-scale business in the field of production, processing and trade in animals and animal products. He is among the seven founders of NARMS and has been a member of the board of the association since its inception.

Due to Mr. Shabanov’s busy schedule, we managed to meet him “on the way”, in the town of Veliko Tarnovo, where he was kind enough to take his valuable time to tell more about himself to the audience.

– Hello Dr. Shabanov, you are a recognizable and public figure, but still, please introduce yourself in a few sentences for our audience.

– Hello, my name is Ismet Shabanov and I am 60 years old. I graduated in Veterinary Medicine in Stara Zagora in 1981. After graduating, until the 90s, I was a general veterinarian, after which I became chief doctor of the APC Omurtag, and subsequently his deputy chairman and chairman.

I have been developing a private business since 1991. I started with 250 sheep and 30 black-and-white female calves, which I set aside from the animals we were then exporting to Lebanon and Syria. I raised them in my native village of Taimishte. Gradually over the years I increased their number, expanded and modernized the production base, improved the growing conditions and so on to this day.

– Let’s start with your choice of profession. What attracted you to veterinary medicine?

– Love of animals, of course. My family has always kept animals, I grew up among them. This love has survived to this day and I am very sorry that I do not have more free time to spend on the farm.

– For comparison, how many animals do you have at the moment?

– There are 3200 sheep. At the end of the 90s their number was about 5000, but subsequently, due to lack of breeders, I reduced them to 3200. I plan to continue to maintain this number of the herd and to optimize the quality.

As for the cattle, in the beginning I actually only had 30 black-and-white animals. Currently, the main herd is 750 dairy cows, of which over 400 are Montbeliard, heifers and females for breeding are about 300. I also leave male calves for fattening, which I export to Croatia and Kosovo. In total we breed over 1500 cattle – Montbeliard, Simmental, black-and-white and Charolais.

– Which is your favorite of the breeds of cattle you raise and why?

– Of dairy – Montbeliard for sure. First, because the animals are very beautiful and have a dual purpose. Calving is light and calves are fattened relatively quickly and easily. Their milk productivity is high and of exceptional quality.

– Is there any secret in this consistent success in every step of your development?

– It is leading and obligatory for a person to do what he loves. It requires patience and striving to learn from the experience of others as well as from your own mistakes. For me, the love of animals predetermined my path and I never had any hesitation about what I wanted to do. When the direction is clear, any goal is achievable, if desired.

Of course, everything in words and from the standpoint of today sounds very easy, but every next step is achieved with a lot of work and courage to take the risk and do it.

If money is someone’s goal, they will always run away from it. Heart, patience and consistency must be invested.

– In Bulgaria, is the love for animals enough for a successful cattle farm?

– No, of course, but the motivation of most of the colleagues is very wrong. If the subsidies are stopped, I am sure that a large part of the farms will disappear abruptly.

– What is the technology of cultivation on your farm?

We have chosen two different technologies because we milk them differently – in a milking parlor and in a central milk line. Some of the animals are kept free-boxing, and the others in combination – during the day they are free, and in the evening they are tied.

– Are you planning any reconstructions in the near future?

– Yes, very soon I plan to build a new barn for 400 cows, along with a milking parlor type Herringbone 2X12.

– How do you manage to find and keep the staff who serve the farm?

– Respect and approach to people! I can safely say that there is almost no turnover on the farm. Employees who left soon after returned.

– You develop a successful beef cattle breeding, have your own meat processing plant and are the largest exporter of lambs in our country! Tell us more about it.

– We do not sell male calves. Everyone is getting fat. For meat, I raise a herd of Charolais cows imported from France and Simmental. These animals are grazed in the wild. In winter we feed them with concentrate and silage. I am very pleased with the growth. We have provided them with complete nutrition with fodder, which we produce ourselves. This year’s harvest was very good for our joy.

The meat factory in the town of Svishtov, which I own, is mainly intended for the export of chilled lamb to many countries in Europe, including Italy, Greece, Austria and Croatia.

– You are a witness and participant in the history of the transition of Bulgarian animal husbandry. What has changed since 1989?

– Nothing is the same, of course.Many colleagues complain about the price of milk, but do not realize that this price is the same in Europe. The requirements too! Subsidizing the industry is not small and I do not see any serious reasons for resentment. I can say that at the moment animal husbandry can be profited and producers should be satisfied.

Everything is very civilized and there are real conditions for everyone who has the qualities to develop a successful business. Of course, there is much more to work on.

In recent years, there has been another negative factor that is very influential and on which we are highly dependent. These are climate change. Years ago there were clear seasons with normal temperatures and humidity. At the moment the weather is unpredictable and we often suffer from various cataclysms. We can’t get the milk we used to produce now, and I attribute it to the heat, the temperature amplitudes and the climate changes in general.

– Does the family help you in the development and management of this large farm?

Yes, until recently my father was actively involved. Now, my daughter Imren helps me the most, but her commitments are also too big.

– How do you see yourself in five years and what would you like to change?

– I want to build the cow farm I planned. I want us to be healthy and able to work. I do not expect or want other changes. I am satisfied with what I have achieved, I want to maintain and improve it.

– You are a member of the Management Board of NARMS, you are its founder and you have always actively participated in its activities. How has it developed over the years and in what direction?

– In a completely positive direction, in my opinion! Apart from my longtime friend, Mr. Atanasov is the only one among the governing such Associations who is fully committed to the cause and the activity he carries out. He is literally available daily and around the clock to anyone who needs help and very strictly fulfills his responsibility. I help as much as I can and as much time as I have left for that. I think that NARMS is the only Association that responsibly treats the goals that we have adopted and written in its Statute more than 12 years ago. I would also like to say that many of the other Associations are inoperable and ineffective.

– Thank you for these words and for your time. It was a pleasure for us to talk to you!

– For me, too, I wish you many future successes!