This is the first in a series of interviews with members of the association and today our kind host is Boyana Kilitanova – owner of the farm in September. Boyana was born in the town of Septemvri and is 50 years old. She is a graduate of the University of National and World Economy and the New Bulgarian University.

– Hello, Boyana. Thank you for agreeing to tell us more about you and your business. How many years have you been involved in animal husbandry?

– Hello. Over 30 years – first as an assistant on my parents’ farm, and then as an owner.
– In this case, you have extensive experience! When was the farm established in the town of Septemvri?

– 22 years ago, my husband and I first worked as farmers, and then we started a company and became partners in it.
What is characteristic of the region in which the farm is located? Is the climate favorable for the breeding of the Montbeliard and Simmental breeds?

In my opinion, this is one of the few ecologically clean places in the plains of Thrace and the climate is extremely favorable for the development of animal husbandry and agriculture. I think that these breeds are so highly adaptable that they could be bred in all climatic conditions, except in the desert, such as the Sahara! The region of the town of Septemvri is definitely very favorable for them.

When did you focus on the Montbeliard and Simmental breeds?

– I have always been interested in them and the moment we decided to raise cows, I decided that they were just like that. Gradually I became convinced that these are the lightest breeds to breed – easily adaptable, with excellent productivity and meek temperament. The black-and-white breed of cattle, which is so much preferred in our country, is inferior to Montbeliard and Simmental in many respects!

How many animals did you start with?

– I started with 5 Simmental animals out of a total of 15 on the farm, and gradually, thanks to our inseminator and selection work, their number increased significantly. I moved to Montbeliard when I accidentally bought a calf of the breed, which turned into a cow with excellent performance and milk yield. Subsequently, when we started working with the association, we decided to inseminate the herd only with Montbeliard seeds and this turned out to be one of the best decisions we made.

How many years have you been a member of the association and how do you assess your cooperation with it?

– I have been a member of the association since 2014, and the advantages of cooperation are many! First of all, I have access to seed material with high breeding value and I am proud of the qualities of my offspring!

– Thanks to the control exercised by the association, the organization in our daily activities and long-term event planning has drastically improved. I believe that the lack of discipline is a characteristic of our national trait and the control significantly supports the development of the business and the proper breeding of the breeds. Because, like many other farms in Bulgaria, so in ours, my husband and I are not only owners but also workers. Under these conditions, it is a special relief that the association puts order in our activities and is our mediator in our relations with state institutions.

And what difficulties do you encounter in your work with the association? Do you have any recommendations for us?

– I have only praise for the work of the association. I have no recommendations, because personally my work was very chaotic and without the association there would be no such order, despite my efforts in this direction. I gladly accept the recommendations of NARMS, as they are useful for all farmers. Maybe there are those who have managed to put things in order on their own, but everyone else needs control and discipline in terms of selection and record keeping. We often underestimate them and then look for fault in everyone else, but not in ourselves.

When did you switch to artificial insemination?

– Over the years, I have always fertilized a part of the herd artificially, but I gave up using a bull when out of 43 animals on the farm, 17 turned out to have endometritis. Artificial insemination has a preventive effect on both the health and the offspring of the herd. We are already looking forward to the results of following the random plan recommended by the association.

Tell us about the nutrition of your animals?

– The animals are mostly grazing. The pastures they inhabit are our private plots or rented. Those for which grazing grasses need to be improved are sown with cereals. At the moment, the milk yield of my cows exceeds the national average. The climate is favorable, the animals graze along the Maritsa River and, with the exception of the mosquitoes for which we take measures, there are no other problems. We do not currently have a central milk line. We work with rubber – 5 devices and a vacuum pump with a total of 29 dairy animals. We are considering the construction of a central milk pipeline and a milking parlor, but this implies a huge investment for us and is currently only a conceptual design.

Are you satisfied with what you have achieved so far? What goals have you set?

– I can’t say I’m happy. I would like to improve the infrastructure inside and outside the farm and the associated terrains and areas. I would like to build a septic tank, fertilize the areas ourselves, as well as equip ourselves with an electrician. My other goals are related to animal health and functionality.

Do you think that the state assists you 100% for the development of your activity?

– Here I must divide the topic in two – first of all, we must be infinitely grateful for the subsidy we receive. Although it is far from the size of support in Western countries, it is a vital support for the development of our business. It is a common misconception that this money is for feeding animals.

Unfortunately, however, in many respects in the face of the institutions the state makes it difficult for us. I am not at all happy with the chaos in the sale of agricultural products, with the fact that dairies very often work “on the black market” and buy the required amount of milk from resellers. And the Montbeliards are known for being a breed whose milk is used to make high-quality cheese and for having an extremely good yield for dairies, but this is far from being appreciated. The state does not care about all this, and the bureaucracy is crushing for us in every respect. In our cooperation with the institutions, we are in the position of the “eternal culprit”. We are always reprehensible – morally, financially and documentary. We will not be happy if we are helped, but even if we are left to do our work in peace. It reminds me of the game of “guards and Apaches” between the institutions and the “bad” farmers, as if they forget that we are the branch they have set foot on. The feeling of double standards is very strong.

The crisis with the recruitment of quality labor is deepening with each passing day. You are also forced to take care of all the needs of the farm yourself. How do you manage?

– Unfortunately, there are no staff, and we cannot hope for qualified and motivated people at all. This greatly complicates and slows down all the processes of animal husbandry and farm development. We do not have the time and peace to think and plan anything beyond the daily needs of animals.

Atanas Atanasov / President of NARMS: The lack of quality labor is a trend in Europe, but there the state helps automate daily processes and farmers manage to handle everything on their own in their modern and technically equipped farms. I hope that here, too, we will work together to achieve these results.

At the end of our meeting, we thank you, Boyana, for kindly accepting our invitation for an interview and for taking the time to tell us about your farm and the difficulties you face!