The Mačković brothers:
A million litres of milk a year

In the small village of Ljutovo near Subotica in the north of Serbia, brothers Josip and Marinko Mačković run a modern family farm with care and dedication. With an average annual milk production of 1 million litres, they are among the country’s leading dairy farmers.

May 09, 2017

But they don’t boast about their success. Instead, they stay firmly grounded in reality. They get up every morning and get to work. Because it’s what they enjoy doing, and it’s what they believe in.

Carrying on a family tradition
“Our work continues a family tradition. Everyone in the family is involved, we have 13 regular employees, and also hire seasonal workers as needed,” says Josip Mačković, who looks after organization and management while his brother Marinko focuses on farming operations and machinery acquisition and maintenance. The close relationship of the two brothers and their family is unquestionably a major factor in the farm’s success. In addition to traditional values of dedication, care and hard work, they also keep up with trends in modern agriculture. This lets them further improve their already successful production operations and continue to grow.

Up to three tonnes of milk daily
The Mačković brothers are among the country’s largest milk producers. Currently they have about 400 head of cattle, including 140 Simmentals and Holsteins. All told, the cows give an average 2.8 tonnes of milk daily, or about a million litres a year. In addition to milk production the brothers work about 600 hectares of land, 100 of their own and 500 leased from the state. However, the lease can only be renewed for a year at a time, so the brothers have to be careful to not get overextended.

The milk goes to a dairy
“We deliver our fresh milk to Somboled, the region’s largest dairy, in the nearby town of Somor,” reports Josip. Part of the French Lactalis Group with its retail brands Dukat, Président and Galbani, Somboled is an important player on the Serbian dairy market. Some of the output is exported as milk and dairy products to countries of the former Yugoslavia, Russia, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Germany.

Top quality is the top priority
The brothers know what it takes to deliver top quality milk. The work closely with the dairy, take regular samples, and do comparative tests on the milk. “We produce natural milk without additives, but the taste depends on the animal fodder and on the season,” notes Josip. The importance of the quality of the feed as well as of the entire production process is clear to him.

Self-sufficiency is the ace up their sleeve
The farm’s main crops are grain, barley, oats, maize and rapeseed. “We grow all of the basic ingredients for our animal feed ourselves. That way we know what we have. We only need to purchase vitamins and minerals. In good years we have surpluses, so we can put in a supply to tide us over bad years,” says Josip, adding, “For example, this year we haven’t yet had to use our supply or sell this year’s harvest. Given the uncertain market conditions, this is certainly one of our competitive advantages, since we leave nothing to chance.”

Two machines, two more
It is widely known that organic fertilizers improve the quality, nutritional value and flavour of agricultural products – all of which are extremely important for a milk producer. To spread manure, the Mačković brothers used two Megafex 1400 spreaders with 14 tonne carrying capacity. They had long given excellent service, so when it was time to get two more spreaders the brothers quickly decided to go with Farmtech again. “We have a long and good relationship with the Farmtech representative in Sombor, Agro-Vesta, and its director Saša Arsić who introduced us to the Megafex line in 2007,” says Marinko. For reasons of tractor power and all-round functionality they settled on the Ultrafex 1600 and purchased two of them in mid-2016.

Universal utility is a tremendous advantage
Over the course of a year the farm spreads about 2000 tonnes of liquefied manure with the two Megafex 1400 and two new Ultrafex 1600 spreaders. “During maize silage we use all the spreaders to transport the harvest of 120 hectares of maize. So the spreaders are in use throughout the year,” says Marinko. The multipurpose utility is a big plus. “The 14 tonne capacity Megafex is no longer in production, but the Ultrafex models are sturdier, drive better and are easier to use. Other advantages are the higher capacity and the option of using silage flaps.” He adds that these have proven an excellent and cost-effective solution, and he’d like to have them for the older spreaders too.

Optimistic about the future
Despite the unpredictability of the market and the difficult times, the Mačković brothers remain relaxed, confident and optimistic. The both emphasize that “we believe in what we do and we’re going to stay with it. We’re not going to give up on our vision, and we’re not going to let bureaucratic obstacles hinder us. It will all be worth it in the end.” They have many wishes and goals for the future, but without additional financial support it will be hard to reach them. As they put it, “our short-term goal is a daily production of at least three tonnes of milk, and we’re sure we’ll achieve it soon. But we’d like more government support and stability, and higher milk prices with higher selling prices for grain. Unfortunately we don’t have any control over those things, but it’s the only way we can stay competitive and invest so we can develop and grow.”