Back to nature

The Žgajnar eco farm in Studenec near Postojna is one of the largest dairy farms in Slovenia. It produces approximately 1.5 million litres of quality milk annually and offers a wide range of dairy products while cultivating 400 hectares of agricultural land.

September 09, 2019

Start from scratch
While their humble beginnings reach two decades back, the leap occurred in 2004, when Anton Žgajnar found an abandoned cooperative estate at 600 meters above sea level under the mighty Nanos mountain. He saw great potential for milk production and the possibility for developing a farm. "I created the farm virtually from nothing, and invested inordinate amounts of effort, time and, ultimately, money," Anton Žgajnar says of his beginnings. While he started with only three cows, today they have 450 heads of cattle, of which about 200 are dairy cows of the brown breed. The organic farm also breeds Slovenian indigenous breeds - the Cika cattle, the Krškopolje pig and the Posavje horse. In 2014, the farm was taken over by his daughter Tina and her husband. They founded the company Bio dobrote d.o.o. and began to intensify the activities in cheese production and sales. They currently employ 35 people, but their ambitions, plans and potentials are much greater.

In tune with nature
They are committed solely to organic production. Caring for livestock that mainly grazes outdoors in the vast pastures is of primary importance to them. Therefore, special attention was paid to creating optimal conditions - they have the most genuine pastures, perfectly cooled barn, latex beds, currycombs, a modern milking parlour and so on. "We listen to nature, observe its laws and interact with it," says Tina Žgajnar, the young farm owner and director of Bio Dobrote, a company responsible for the sale and processing of milk. "Everything is well thought out, so we know exactly where and when the cows are grazing, how they should be laid in the stable, how and when to milk them, when to collect milk and make dairy products," Tina added.

It all starts with milk
The cheese factory only processes fresh, natural and organic milk from its farm. Daily, they milk between 2500 to 4000 litres of milk and process it themselves. On an annual basis, this amounts to approximately 1.5 million litres of processed milk. "The most important thing is that the products are made of quality milk and that the processing method is correct," says Tina, noting that milk is a very delicate food that spoils quickly in case of inadequate hygiene and processing, so it is crucially important to maintain cleanliness and handle milk properly starting at milking time.

An ever-expanding range of products
They also adapt to the needs of customers and the market, and are constantly expanding their product range. In Slovenia, they were one of the pioneers of selling milk at the milk vending machines. They also sell their dairy eco-products at market squares and in their stores, while also supplying products to several public institutions (schools and kindergartens) at an affordable price. In addition to a wide range of organic dairy products, they are launching the sales of fresh organic beef and veal meat at public establishments and in all their stores, as well as producing organic dried meat from Krškopolje pigs, namely naturally dried meats.

Quality over quantity
"Quality is more important to us than quantity," explains Tina, who has developed her own authentic processing culture. "We are proud of our high quality organic products developed over a number of years. We believe that all people deserve good and quality food," adds Tina, who derives the greatest satisfaction from seeing satisfied customers coming back and appreciating their daily efforts. Milk and all dairy products from the Žgajnar Eco Farm are equipped with the label "Selected Quality - farm product", which guarantees superior product quality and additional control over milk production and processing. In addition, their products have received numerous awards and medals.

Organic fertilisers only
In addition to milk processing and healthy farming, 400 hectares of agricultural land are in use, of which 280 hectares are grassland and 120 hectares are arable land. Since natural resources are not suitable for intensive production processes, the soil must be treated with care. They are aware that organic fertilisers contribute to the quality and nutrition of the soil and, after all, to the taste of the crops, so they fertilise the soil using only organic fertilisers and their own manure and slurry. They use a 16-ton Ultrafex 1600 spreader for manure spreading. "I think this spreader is the fifteenth Farmtech machine I own," says Anton Žgajnar, who is still directly involved in the work and helps with farm mechanisation decisions. He is most fortunate to have a family who sees farming as a way of life.

Prudent purchases
All modern machinery is selected carefully and systematically. They do not regret buying Farmtech machines. "Somewhere along the line, we bought a machine from a competitor, but after intensive use, we returned to Farmtech and we would never make the same mistake again," says Anton, who is very careful in selecting accessories as well. For the Ultrafex 1600 spreader, they selected the widest possible tires in order to minimise soil compaction and damage to grassland. For easier manoeuvrability, the spreader is ball driven, with an optimum spread pattern and near-perfect operation. In the near future, they plan to make an investment into a larger slurry tank. They flirt with the idea of buying the Polycis polyester tank in the largest three-axle version.

Investing in the future
The Žgajnar eco farm serves as proof that strong will, perseverance and hard work go a long way, and the future of the farm looks very bright. They have no shortage of new goals and ideas for economic development. The fundamental objective, of course, is to preserve the size of the farm while reducing costs. They intend to achieve that by updating their natural resources and supplying their own water and electricity. Currently, their estate is one large construction site as they are building a modern processing and sales facility extending over 3,000 square meters and worth 4 million euro. "Due to insufficient capacities and increasing needs, we are investing in new facilities because we see great potential for the long-term implementation of this business," says Tina, who is already investing heavily in promotion and is actively seeking to integrate tourism on the farm. "We still have a lot of work and challenges ahead of us, but we are well equipped to face them because we believe in what we do," Tina added and stormed back to the cheese factory.