This is the first of the series of interviews with members of the Association. Our first kind host is Boyana Kilitanova – owner of the farm in the city of Septemvry. Boyana was born in the town of Septemvri and is 50 years old. She has graduated 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 breeding animals?

Hello and welcome! Over 30 years – first as an assistant on my parents’ farm, and then as an owner.

You have a rich experience! How long have you owned the farm in Septemvri?

22 years ago. My husband and I first worked as farmers, and then we started our own business and became partners in it.

What are characteristics of the region in which the farm is located? Is the climate suitable for the breeding of the Montbeliarde and Simmental breeds?

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

Why did you choose 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 have to be Montbeliarde or Simmental. Gradually I became convinced that these are the best breeds – very adaptive, with excellent productivity and calm temperament. The Holstein 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 Montbeliarde 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 Montbeliarde 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 evaluate 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 semen material with high breeding value and I am proud of the qualities of my animals!

Thanks to the control of 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 really appreciate the work of NARMS. 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 very often underestimate them and then look for the fault in everyone else, but not in ourselves.

When did you to inseminate artificial?

Over the years, I have always inseminated 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 breeding 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 suitable, 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 5 devices and a vacuum pump with a total of 29 dairy animals. We are considering the construction of a central milk line and a milking parlor, but this implies a huge investment for us and is currently only a conceptual idea.

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 of the farm and the associated terrains and areas. I would like to build a septic tank. My other goals are related to animal health and functionality.

Do you think that the state assists you 100% for success of your bussines?

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 satisfied 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 Montbeliardes are known for being a breed whose milk produces 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 be happy not if we are helped, but even if we are left to do our work in peace. This reminds me of the game of guards and criminals between 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 workers is very serious in the branch. 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 really 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.

At the end of our interview, 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!

Thank you for the opportunity to share problems that I think are common to all my colleagues!