Today we are in the village of Krapchene to take a look at the farm of Rumen Bonev, which houses one of the largest herds of Simmental breed in our country, numbering more than 200 animals. The village is located in the Fore-Balkans, not far from the regional town of Montana and Ogosta Dam. The climate is temperate continental, characterized by cold winters and hot summers.

The Bonevi family welcomes us with the farm office. Rumen’s smiling wife makes us hot coffee, and with him we start a long conversation about the farm, the problems, the solutions and the animal husbandry in Bulgaria. The everyday life of the Bulgarian farmer is anything but easy and now we will tell you what Rumen has gone through on his way to today.

– Hello, Mr. Bonev, thank you for finding time for us! Tell our readers more about yourself!

– Hello and welcome! My name is Rumen Bonev, 60 years old and together with my family since 2005 we have been developing a family farm here in the village of Krapchene. I have been involved in animal husbandry all my life. My parents also raised animals, and that determined my path.

I have been breeding the Simmental breed for a very long time, but in the beginning I started with black-patterned and brown American. After some wandering among the common breeds, we stopped at the Simmental breed and this proved to be the right decision in time.

– This diverse experience allows you to compare different breeds. What distinguishes the Simmentals?

The difference is huge. Both in terms of the health and calm temperament of the Simmentals, and in terms of their quality production.

– Do processors appreciate this? Do you get a better price for Simmental milk?

No, by no means unfortunately. Not only do they not appreciate it, but we should be happy if they are willing to pay it on time. Delays are constant and because we are dependent on dairies and have no choice, they twist our arms at any moment. But they are also only a link in the chain, because on the other hand, in the same way, large retail chains twist their arms and an enchanted vicious circle of interests ensues. We are all connected and dependent on each other, but unfortunately the producers are at a disadvantage!

The only way to solve these problems is adequate regulation and control over its implementation by the state. But there is no prospect of this happening soon, as we have been in this situation for years and we are clearly not a priority for the state.

– In that case, what motivates you to continue and look for higher quality products?

– The love for animals. Anyone who is a breeder will understand me. It’s a disease – once you get started, you want more and better.

– What was the purpose of the farm building before you turned it into a farm? Are you planning to modernize it?

– Former fattening farm. Unfortunately, in this situation in the country and these delays on the part of dairies, we cannot even think about modernizations or expansion of the activity. Uncertainty is the biggest problem. In reality, we cannot afford any long-term planning. We invest annually in feeding and selection of these animals, the result is there – the production has increased, the herd is “cleaned”, but in the end, unfortunately, no one will appreciate it.

If, for example, we decide to build a new milking parlor, it means to mortgage my property, and with these delays in milk payments, it is very possible that I will lose everything. Sometimes we wait to be paid for 3-4 months and we can only withstand “muscles”. We have pledged our lives in this business, we currently have delayed payments of over BGN 80,000 and more are accumulating.

– How has the pandemic crisis affected you?

– This gave milkers another reason to lower the purchase price and delay payments.

– What breeding technology have you chosen?

– There are tethered animals and those that we keep free boxing. We milk them with a central milk duct.

– Do you inseminate artificially and what results do you see in the next generations?

– We have been inseminating completely artificially for 7-8 years and the results are visible at first sight in the animals, and the production has increased many times. We have first calves that give us 30 or more liters after calving.

– How many people take care of the farm? Can you find a workforce?

– This is one of the most serious problems. Currently, a total of 15 people take care of the farm. But with employees it is very difficult. Our son is a great support because he has taken on most of the responsibilities.

– How do you feed animals? What is the most important thing in terms of nutrition that you have become convinced of over the years?

– We have our own terrains and those for rent, but we do not let the animals graze because they do not have access to water. The most important thing is, of course, the quality of the food and that it be prepared by specialists. The rations of all animals cannot be the same. With us, everything is prepared according to a recipe and the prescriptions are followed very strictly. Proper nutrition is the basis of good health and quality animal production. If someone decides to save from this, it is better not to engage in animal husbandry at all. Animals expect 365 days a year to respond adequately to any change in their condition and the first thing to consider is nutrition – it all starts. If it is not fed properly, the animal will not be able to calve normally and give quality offspring, its milk production will be low, etc. – Everything is connected. Livestock requires constant monitoring, knowledge and work – almost around the clock and without a day off!

– Have you imported animals from abroad?

– No, we just exported. For Kosovo and Albania. We breed heifers with Aberdeen. Thus we have much easier calving, and their offspring are fattened regardless of sex and we export them abroad. Their yield is high and they are in great demand. We have been working with foreign partners for many years and this has proved to be a very good practice – firstly for the reproductive health of heifers and secondly for the profitable sale of the offspring.

– Recently you had a problem with the offspring of one of the tested bulls in Bulgaria. What happened?

Yes, with Elemag. The offspring were very large and this cost the lives of several heifers unfortunately. This bull has already been discontinued. The association compensated me as much as the accumulated fund allowed for such situations. The production and testing of seed material in our country cannot be compared with the practice in the West. We are still light years away.

-How long have you been a member of the Association? Does the subsidy motivate you?

– For 8 years – long before the subsidy was a fact in its current form. The meaning of being part of an association is complex – access to quality seed material, strict rules, administrative assistance. The organization is completely different – this is the only way to talk about selection. We exist in a community and exchange experiences with colleagues.

– Have you visited any foreign forums to gain experience?

– Our constant commitment has not given us the opportunity so far. We joined the group that was scheduled to visit Austria before the pandemic, and we hope that the Association will renew this organization soon and have the opportunity to see how colleagues in the West are working.

– How do you see yourself in 5 years?

– Everything is God’s work and I do not dare to make such long-term plans, because we live in such a country. The first thing I wish for is security, peace of mind and normal conditions for business development. Then we can already plan upgrades and optimizations. Addiction and uncertainty are our biggest problem and I hope that in time we will have the peace of mind to plan for the long term!

– We sincerely wish you peace of mind and the opportunity to plan for the long term and to act on a grand scale! Thank you for your time and expect an invitation for a new date to visit Austria in September!