Today we will introduce you to the Ilchevi family from the town of Parvomay and their family farm. Pure Montbeliards are raised on the farm and everyone takes care of them! – small and large family members.
Parvomay is located in Plovdiv district and is close to the regional cities of Plovdiv, Stara Zagora and Haskovo. It is characterized by developed light industry, agriculture and animal husbandry. It has a rich cultural history, and in the center of the town is a picturesque city park, next to the beautiful community center.
Our interlocutor today is the son of the Hristo and Ivanka Ilchevi family – Jordan. In recent years, he has gradually taken on the heavy responsibilities of his parents on the farm they have set up. We catch him during the harvest and in order to be able to talk before he goes to the field we go to the farm at 7 o’clock in the morning.
– Hello, tell us a little more about yourself.
– Hello and welcome! My name is Jordan and a few days ago I turned 40. I graduated from the Vocational School of Agricultural Mechanization. I’ve been dealing with animals for as long as I can remember. My parents raised animals all their lives and we grew up among them – buffaloes, cows and sheep.
After the dairies began to literally make fun of the price of buffalo milk, we switched entirely to cows. The buffalo gives a little milk, but quality, and the price was the same as the price of cows. The buffalo is very economical to raise, but the amount of milk is small. For example, the most dairy buffalo had reached 18 liters of daily milk yield, but at a price of 40 stotinki per liter, the bill simply did not come out. The fat content of buffalo milk starts at 6 and reaches 12%.
– In that case – happy birthday “on a crutch” from the team of the Association! May success and health be your inseparable companions!
What cows did you start with when you decided to finish raising buffalo?
– We started with different breeds, which were offered by the liquidated cooperatives. Mainly black and striped and jersey. In the beginning with only 5-6 animals, then 10, 20 and so we gradually increased them.
In 2008 we bought the farm we are currently in. At that time it was a base for suffocating ducks. With a lot of work and reconstructions we turned it into a cowshed, but it was not easy at all, because the buildings were completely empty and everything was built from scratch. It took us almost 2 years to complete the repairs and in 2010 we started raising animals here.
– At the moment, how many and what animals are on the farm?
– Today the main breed we breed is Montbeliard. There are also 2 Simmentals and several crosses. In total, the herd numbers about 100 animals.
Even before we moved to this farm, we turned to the Montbeliard breed. The veterinarian who operated our farm recommended it because of its dual purpose. We wanted to raise animals for fattening and milk, and the breed turned out to be ideal for this purpose.
We didn’t buy Montbeliard from outside. In 2005 we started inseminating the cows from the existing herd with seed material of the breed and gradually cleaned it. When we moved to the new farm we decided that it was important to go under selection control. We wanted a purebred herd, and the Association offers the best possible quality seed material at affordable prices, and we also wanted someone to monitor how the breed develops in our country.
Initially, we turned to the black-and-white association, but when their representative saw the animals, he recommended that we turn to NARMS. With their help, we decided to switch entirely to the Montbeliard breed.
– You have been growing Montbeliard for over 10 years. What are the differences with other breeds?
– The only advantage of black-and-white cows is the amount of milk. But, with proper nutrition and breeding over time, Montbeliard does not yield to them in this direction. They are calm, healthy, easily fertilized and calved, and the quality of the milk is incomparably higher!
Some colleagues say that they have a problem with the hooves, but this is not the case with us because we raise them on pasture. We feed them in the barn at the moment, because due to the high temperatures and the drought, everything in the meadows burned down, unfortunately.
– In order to be independent of the natural conditions, do you plan to switch to free-box breeding?
– Our project is ready, but as you know it requires a serious investment, and the production is very difficult to save money for reconstructions. The first thing we will definitely do are food aisles.
– Do you manage with your own funds or have you managed to take advantage of the support programs?
– Only with own funds and bank loans! The hardest way!
As we talk to Dancho, we are joined by his father, his wife and his two wonderful children. It is obvious from afar that the cohesive family copes with both the work and the difficulties! Dancho’s life was predetermined by his parents’ love for animals and it seems that he will also pass it on to the next generation.
His daughter has long been willing to help on the farm, and when we ask little Hristo what he wants to be when he grows up, he tells us without hesitation that he will have a farm like his father and grandfather.
– You are a completely family farm and all together take care of the animals. Does everyone help?
– That’s right. My parents, my wife and my two children – we all work together, but undoubtedly the driving force of the farm is my mother, Ivanka! She is tireless! She is currently milking the cows alone and for years she has been working for 10 workers without a day off, without complaint and without excuses!
– We are witnessing the inexhaustible energy of your mother and we wish her many more years to be healthy and to be an example of diligence, as before! True, you are a very close-knit and hard-working family, but you can’t do without workers. How do you manage to find a workforce?
– This is the biggest and most difficult problem not only in animal husbandry! The so-called “workers” do not want to work on an employment contract, they want to receive a lot of money in advance. When they decide, they get up and leave, and they don’t care what they leave behind! I guess the same thing happens on many other farms.
Something needs to be invented by law, to stimulate the training and attraction of personnel in animal husbandry. The last family who came to work here, at the beginning of the conversation wished to rest over the weekend. Apart from telling the cows now to rest on Saturday and Sunday, not to eat so that we don’t have to milk them!
The majority of people who come to look for work, unfortunately, are from the criminal contingent and subsequently create a lot of problems. I am forced to check with the police for anyone who will hire. I advise all colleagues to do so. We face many difficulties in this regard.
– What is it like to be a farmer in Bulgaria?
– The requirements are the highest in dairy cattle breeding. The regulations change one after another and we do not even have the opportunity to understand what they can and will check us for. However, we do not miss the fine or the suspension of subsidies if we have not complied with a new regulation. The requirements are great, and there is nothing in return. Our hands are twisting and there is nothing we can do. We don’t have time to look up from work. They did an inspection, a cross-check and a cross-check. World to you!
– And how do you work with dairies? Do they give a better price for milk to the Montbeliards?
– Some dairies give, but this year with the crisis with COVID-19 wages are slowing down, prices have fallen. They don’t seem to have a market, their sales seem to have decreased, and the grocery stores are full and the prices are the same.
– How do they explain these contradictions to you – the grocery stores are full, the prices are the same, and they reduce the purchase price?
– There was a market, but for imitation products! For the real ones – from 100% milk, the demand has decreased according to them, because due to the crisis the purchasing power of people has decreased and they buy cheap things.
There are dairies that usually want to “catch monkeys with bran”, but people are to blame for buying this garbage and harming their health! One liter of milk may have entered these dairies today, but they may have produced millions. You can imagine how this happens!
State control is lacking at all, and in this “market economy” it is the dairies that set the prices and understand each other. This is a monopoly. One dairy to announce a price reduction by pennies and by noon everyone has reduced them. However, the rise is very difficult and when it happens it is a penny.
With the dairy I work with now, I have no problem with happiness. They pay everything on time, but I have worked with many incorrect processors before.
– Everyone shares your problems, but in fact it is not up to you as a guild to unite and defend your rights?
– The system is designed so that we can not lift our heads from work and bureaucracy, so that we can even think about unification and protect our rights. Here it is governed by the principle of “divide and rule”! There is no day off for us! In addition to the animals, we also have land that is waiting to be cultivated, and when it comes to cover some inspection, even if it is a robot, it will not last! It is harvest time and we are literally living in the field.
Farmers like us who look after their own animals cannot have time to look up. My mother got up today at 5 o’clock to milk the cows, sometimes she doesn’t go to work.
– Since when have you been a member of the Association? Over the years, have you found any benefit from this cooperation outside of subsidies?
Jordan’s father, Hristo Ilchev, intervened:
– It’s been seven years. Mr. Atanasov looks at his work extremely strictly and diligently. In others the Association is not so at all. We have always received full assistance on all issues – whether for documents, whether to contact us. It is available literally around the clock.
– That is true! The association has always been a very fair partner! We always receive quality seed material on time and with each succeeding generation the herd is cleared and the production increases. We are already paying more attention to nutrition and following the random plan. Administrative assistance is also very important and we can always look for information and count on it to be correct. We are very satisfied!
– What advice would you give to people who are just following in your footsteps? Would you choose to be a farmer again if you go back in time?
– Of course! This is of course a personal choice, but the main factor influencing such a decision is the love of animals. If there is one, a person will keep animals, regardless of whether he is a hereditary farmer and receives a subsidy. However, if things are done only for money, I do not think they will turn out well. Without love for what you do can not and always affects the results. It is very difficult to make money from animals, of course! There is a lot of work and no day off, but you don’t become a millionaire. If anyone has such illusions they must give up in time!
– How do you see yourself and the farm in 5 years?
– I want us to be healthy, to work and to modernize the farm as much as possible. To make a milking parlor and improve the conditions.
– We wish you from the bottom of our hearts! Thank you for your hospitality!