Today we publish the continuation of our conversation with one of the proven scientists in the field of obstetrics and ruminant reproduction – Professor Dr. Nasko Yovchev Vassilev.

He was born on July 8, 1960 in the town of Simeonovgrad. During his scientific career he passed through the degrees of assistant in the Department of Obstetrics, Reproduction and Reproductive Disorders (1990), senior assistant (1993), chief assistant (1996), associate professor (2005), and since 2013 already professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Reproduction and Reproductive Disorders at the Thracian University in Stara Zagora.

In our first conversation, Prof. Vassilev told us about the history and development of the department he heads. He and his colleagues have made it a priority to maximize the benefits for farmers by developing various programs and forms of training tailored to their high commitment. In this way they make science a faithful friend of the Bulgarian farmer.

– Hello again, Prof. Vassilev? Is information available to the farmer, in a language he understands, about the achievements of science in order to apply them in practice?

– Hello, unfortunately not at this stage. We specialists, of course, cannot avoid the use of specialized terminology in many cases, but even colleagues in the industry are not obliged to know it at the highest level. The only way to be able to fully cooperate is the regular presence and practice of scientists on farms and vice versa – raising the qualifications of breeders through the courses we conduct at TU and colleagues at other universities.

It is good for all of us to work together for more and better offspring, to increase the quality and quantity of the production, as well as for its realization. In this regard, I believe that there is a lack of full public awareness, for example, of what healthy dairy products are on the market. Montbeliard and Simmental milk products could and should definitely be preferred and sought after, but for this purpose the end user needs to be informed about their indisputable qualities.

I think this is gradually changing in the right direction. Years ago, farmers were almost prosecuted for direct milk sales. Recently, more and more farms are finding a way to sell their products themselves, which allows it to be known, sought after and preferred because of its better qualities.

Associations would also be a good option, but in Bulgaria it is difficult to happen. It is difficult for us to unite around a common goal in every respect, and I think that is very disturbing. We all visit different countries in Europe, the United States and the cooperatives there. We are happy and impressed to tell about them when we return, but we do not follow their example, although we are aware that this is the only way to lasting results.

In the West, in addition to knowledge and experience, farmers share technology, produce food together and defend their rights. Here no one can count on anyone and we are saved individually. The point, however, is not to save ourselves, but to develop together in the right direction. I think there has been some progress in recent years, but there is still much to be desired.

Recently I had the opportunity to walk around Stara Zagora. I remember that for the first time 7-8 years ago they installed a milk machine from the Agricultural Institute in the city. During this walk I listed at least 9-10 company stores on small farms, which is a very positive sign and gives consumers a chance to buy something real and quality and encourage producers to look for a direct route to them. The small boutique shops on farms in the region are a very positive signal that things are still moving towards Western models.

Here we can talk about the topic of organic production. It is also gaining strength and popularity in recent years and only in Stara Zagora there are at least 2 stores with such quality and proven products. People are increasingly looking for healthy food and finding out what they eat, and here comes the place for organic producers to find a way to make their products available in their own stores or in the retail network as a whole. There were some problems with quality and documentation years ago, but I think they have been resolved over time.

With meat products, things are more cumbersome due to the specifics of the technology, but even there steps are already being taken to distinguish real healthy products from those with questionable content.

I hope that the period in which people rightly doubted the presence of real milk and meat in the products at all has passed.

The practices of circumventing BDS and palm oil were very vicious, and I really hope that they have remained irretrievably in the past. The Bulgarian loves dairy products and therefore does not need a special campaign or advertising, he understands their quality and can not be fooled what he consumes.

The Thracian University supports anyone who seeks high quality products and provides assistance in every direction.

Everyone who raises animals should know that in Stara Zagora there is a team of specialists who assist the breeders. I do not want to underestimate the other educational institution – the University of Forestry in Sofia, which also trains specialists, but there the focus is mainly on pets, which are the basis of their activities in big cities. Not that over time, veterinary staff fail to catch up and, if desired, to be realized in animal husbandry, but they often turn to us to improve their skills.

This is not competition between schools, but rather a good collaboration. Each university has its own priority activities and specialties.

– What should a young farmer or one who wants to improve the already acquired knowledge and skills do? Who to turn to to get acquainted with the possibilities? For example, in many regions there is a lack of quality inseminators and this prevents farms from practicing artificial insemination.

– This is a very easy problem to solve. Each farmer can nominate one member of his family and he can come to our course for postgraduate qualification. It is required to present a diploma for secondary or higher education and, depending on his level of knowledge and needs, to determine the duration and nature of the training. Bachelor’s courses in agriculture are within 16 hours, and for those with secondary education are 30 hours. We conduct them in a training experimental farm and here at the Technical University, where we have a reproduction center. It is quite real for a period of a week of intensive training to acquire the necessary theoretical, but mostly practical knowledge and skills. We have made the practice a priority in order to be of maximum benefit to those who will return immediately and work on the farms. After completing the courses we leave an “open door” if necessary for everyone to return with a specific problem or need for consultation, because it is in practice that many questions arise.

We have two forms of education – group and individual, the second is fully consistent with the opportunities and free time of students.

– This is in terms of artificial insemination. What else is offered as a qualification in the department?

– Other, very useful, courses are those on pregnancy diagnosis and ultrasound examination and reproductive health management. In the management of reproductive health, the training is more complex and long-lasting, as it is necessary to have a good knowledge of all the processes in a farm – the technology and the specifics of breeding. We adapt the training to the characteristics of the specific farm in order to be as useful as possible.

The individual approach is very important in this respect, as it is impossible to put farms under a common denominator. For example, a farm with up to 100 animals without specialized software cannot be managed like that with 300 or more cows and a high level of technical equipment and the software needed for a detailed knowledge of the condition of the animals.

We take into account all the necessary factors in the preliminary conversations with those who wish, so that we can offer them the most useful specifically for their needs and in accordance with their schedule training.

We also have more general and widespread qualification courses such as “Productive Animal Diseases”. They include all the necessary theoretical knowledge and practices for full mastery of the topic. In this specialty there is an opportunity for communication with teachers from all departments and upon graduation students are ready to apply the knowledge on the farm or the farms in which they work.

– Thank you very much, Professor Vassilev, for the valuable information and we hope that after this conversation more farmers will seek the help of the department you head to increase their knowledge and achieve a higher level of cultivation and production on their farms!

– Of course! The doors of my office and those of my colleagues from the department are open to anyone who wants to learn or needs help!

Coordinates of Professor Dr. Nasko Vassilev, as well as more information about the trainings can be found on the website of the Thracian University HERE.