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Supported by the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project, the Association of Agricultural Producers Kalinovik has trained 42 dairy farmers on how to improve milk quality and increase yields, which should lead to 15 to 20 percent higher incomes.

“Several days ago we had a very good training session on the cultivation of forage plants and the production of nutritious animal feed," says Mirko Bozalo. He is a member of the Association of Agricultural Producers (UPP) Kalinovik, in Eastern Bosnia, and the coordinator of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project supported training program for the 42 dairy farmers.

“This session was delivered by the Agricultural Cooperative Gvozno. In the future, the Cooperative will provide advice to farmers on how to grow plants and crops, and all the necessary machines and equipment to start producing their animal feed," he adds.

Increasing yields and income

"Making a living through milk production is possible. Nonetheless, it takes knowledge and a lot of effort," says Mirko. According to him, maintaining milk hygiene and quality is key to sustaining small farms, and it is very much a black or white situation. “The milk can either be of the required quality or not, and this will define its price.”

The 42 dairy farmers the UPP Kalinovik is working with have 160 dairy cows and produce close to 350,000 liters of milk, which they sell to Pađeni Dairy in Bileća. Pađeni tests milk for bacteria, somatic cells, protein, and milk fat. If all the parameters are in the required range the milk is considered a quality product, and Pađeni will buy it for BAM 0.48 to 0.5 a liter. Furthermore, such milk is eligible for local and entity (Republika Srpska) subsidies that amount to an additional BAM 0.35. This brings the price of one liter of raw milk to BAM 0.85.

However, Mirko notes that one-third of all the milk produced in Kalinovik is not of good quality and that is why their farmers on average make some BAM 8,000 a year. "With the training program we delivered over the last two months we want to help the farmers to maintain and increase the hygiene and turn all of their milk into a quality product. We also want to help them to increase the quantities of milk they produce through proper nutrition and care for the animals by at least five percent in the first year following the training. All of this should result in them making at least 15 to 20 percent more money, i.e. some BAM 9,200 to 9,600 a year.”

Training and new equipment for smoother operation

To cover all the bases, the FARMA II supported training program consisted of eight courses including on animal feed production and livestock nutrition; udder health and milk hygiene; animal reproduction, welfare, and housing; and financial management in agriculture. In total, it entailed 32 theoretical and 60 practical sessions.

In addition to the training program, the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project and the Kalinovik Municipality supported the UPP Kalinovik to purchase an additional five lacto-freezers with a cumulative capacity of 2,300 liters. These will be placed in remote villages and enable farmers to properly and safely store milk. Additionally, 42 stainless steel milk cans were delivered to farmers to replace the plastic ones most of them use. Stainless steel cans can last a lifetime and are easier to clean to the sanitary requirements needed for the highest quality milk.

"We hope we have motivated the farmer to do better. The training has given them the know-how, and the new equipment and the support provide by the Gvozno Cooperative should enable them to apply it in their day to day work. We have set realistic expectations for the results to be achieved in the first year following the training. We hope that the results in the years to come will be much better as their production of animal feed picks up and as they further grow their herds and increase production of milk,” concludes Mirko.