The challenges of cattle-raising

Zvonko Širjan runs a traditional family business in Križevci in northeastern Croatia. As the years have passed he has become one of the country’s largest cattle breeders, with 14,000 head of cattle.

December 20, 2017

The family-owned company Širjan d.o.o. was founded in 1991 and raises cattle. Its production runs to 14,000 animals per year. “About half of our animals go to meat processers in Slovenia, and the other half to the EU and other Mediterranean countries,” explains Zvonko Širjan, adding that the farm also works 2800 of farmland.

A long tradition
Zvonko’s father Josip started the business in the early 70s, raising high-quality cattle on small family farms. Josip Širjan is retired, but he’s still a big help in running things. Zvonko’s wife Valentina takes care of finances and bookkeeping, while daughter Josipa acts as sales director, successfully meeting the challenges of the market.

Three locations
The family’s cattle are distributed among three farms throughout Croatia. The first is in Kusijevec – where everything started – the second in Ivanić-Grad near Zagreb and the third in Brinje on the coast. The distances involved require extremely good organization and logistics, and efficient communication. Numerous employees work at each location, and seasonally additional temporarz workers are taken on.

Rewarding investments
Zvonko Širjan has invested a lot in recent years to make his business successful. He plans to expand in the future as well, with additional investments. He is aware of the potential and the positive market trends. At the same time, he never forgets that his investments have to bring long-term profit, and that income will not happen overnight. “Cattle breeding is a business for people with courage and brains, who seek out long-term challenges during times of crisis,” Širjan explains. And as his operation demonstrates, the business can certainly be lucrative.

The self-sufficiency bottleneck
The formula for raising cattle is relatively simple. Cattle don’t just need to graze, they also need to get the right high-quality fodder regularly if they are to reach their ideal weight for market. The Širjans mostly raise spotted breeds – Simmental, Limousin, Charolais and Belgian Blue, as well as Canadian Angus steers. The company has 2800 hectares of farmland, growing mostly animal fodder (maize and grass silage). But this covers only 50 percent of its needs. “What we can’t grow ourselves, we buy from local farmers, but there isn’t enough,” says Širjan and adds that near their farms there are many state-owned properties that no one works. They would like to work them, as the capacity is there to do it.

Ideal solutions
The many top-drawer agricultural machines in the company fleet show that the Širjans don’t stint when it comes to quality and innovation, and are open to new technologies. Last year the company was looking for a transportation solution that would be fast, efficient and low-cost. They found it in the Farmtech Fortis product line. “We’ve known about the quality of the products and the brand for a long time. And we appreciate proven quality and personal advice,” says Širjan, who contacted Croatian Farmtech dealer Eko-Terra before ordering machines. “With Eko-Terra and Farmtech we have dependable, helpful partners who gave us the opportunity to contribute to the design of the all-purpose Fortis 2200 Truck so that it met our needs and desires - while also taking into consideration our financial situation,” he adds.

Highly satisfied
The Širjan fleet currently includes six Fortis 3000 all-purpose push-off trailers and four trucks with Fortis 2200 Truck superstructures that have silage flaps as well as spreaders to handle all the different jobs that come up over the course of the year. Daily, the trucks move manure and mud from farm to biogas plant, while the trailers are used for silage and spreading manure. “We’re delighted with their versatility, high capacity and year-round utility. The machines are also very manoeuvrable on difficult ground. And the push-off system has proven very dependable and efficient in use,” says Širjan of his experience with Fortis products. “We are very happy with our choice, and didn’t have to make compromises,” he adds and looks optimistically at the stall full of fattening animals. “The close collaboration has certainly proven beneficial. We plan to order four more all-purpose vehicles this year, with some minimal changes and adaptations to make them even better for our purposes.”