Belarusian food products firmly occupy their niche — not only at the domestic market but abroad

Where milk rivers flow

Belarusian food products firmly occupy their niche — not only at the domestic market but abroad

Inexpensive and of premium quality, with some produced under strict Soviet regulations, Belarusian food products enjoy great export success. Our reporter investigates the source of Belarusian milk, visiting Shipyany-ASK Republican Unitary Enterprises, which specialises in meat and milk production.

The enterprise also has agricultural interests, as is common in the livestock business. ASK believes that science and practice go hand to hand, mutually supplementing each other. Long ago, it began hosting the National Academy of Sciences’ Scientific-Practical Centre Republican Unitary Enterprise. As a result, Shipyany-ASK is at the heart of Belarusian seed development. Elite seeds are tested here, then sold countrywide. In addition, the first Belarusian seed plant is operational on its premises, using innovative technologies of seed drying and processing.

Milk products are the key and, with this in mind, Shipyany-ASK completed construction of a major modern milk-commodity complex at the end of 2014; there are few similar in Belarus. It indicates that a farm is operating at a new level — including cattle breeding and managerial duties. New jobs are being taken mostly by young people, with milking staff aged 21-30. They enjoy good salaries (as worthily rival those earned in the capital). Once the complex is fully equipped and operational, salaries should rise.

Maria Smyk — who heads the company — proudly admits, “Young people are attracted not only by our high salaries but by our convenient working schedule; employees have a day off every four days or two days off after eight days of working. Meanwhile, there’s no more hard labour of carrying buckets by hand.”

Comfortable working conditions can be very attractive. Employees have access to showers and a room in which to eat their meals. During field work, combine drivers and animal breeders are provided with hot meals free of charge, and are taken to their workplace by bus.

Maria joined the company after graduating from a higher educational establishment, being employed as part of her obligatory student distribution. She explains, “I thought I’d work for a year or two but have chosen to remain here ever since. I’ve headed the farm and have worked as a livestock specialist but now head the new complex. We also have a man among our milkers; in fact, scientists have proven that cows are more obedient towards men and provide milk more eagerly, so it shouldn’t be surprising.” In confirmation, Maria recollects her student internship in the Czech Republic, where men were commonly employed on dairy farms. Belarus’ stereotype of milking being a female profession needs to be broken.

In 2014, average milk yield (per cow) stood at 7,828kg; the ambitious target is now 8,500kg, requiring all reserves and scientific innovations to be used. As specialists assert, milk yield depends on the standard of forage, so research is being undertaken into making this as high quality as is possible. Pleasingly, the complex uses high quality forage: vital to successful milk production. As the saying goes: ‘Cows have their milk on their tongues’. With this in mind, it’s important to store enough forage for the whole year, and to ensure that standards meet European norms.

By Piotr Ivanov
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