“Cows need not only food but all types of care in order to produce quality products,”
Mrs. Abrehet Habtegergish
Meet Mrs. Abrehet Habtegergish, one of the Eritrean women working in the dairy farm business. Zack Farm was established by her late husband, Zecarias Fisshaye, in the late 1990s with just two cows and 50 chicks. Today, the farm is known for its exemplary dairy products. Here is a short interview she conducted with Hadas Eritrea.
- How did you end up with Zack Farm, Mrs. Abrehet?
I honestly didn’t have any interest. I was only doing it to help out my late husband. We were both freedom fighters and teachers at the time. But my husband was so passionate about animals and he is the one who started the business. Today, I am proud to say that Zack Farm has turned from a small business which produced and sold only milk to a big business that specializes in dairy products.
- What are the procedures that Zack Farm uses in managing the quality of its cows?
As a company, I believe that we have made tremendous changes over the years. Cows need proper care regarding their hygiene, nutrition and health in order to produce a great amount that has quality. That’s why we try to prioritize all those things. We have a doctor who looks after their wellbeing regularly. The cows are checked for bruises and any type of marks on their bodies every time they are milked. We also make them dip their legs in gypsum every night before they are done for the day to get rid of any type of bugs that might be found on their skin. This helps the cows not to get any kind of infections when they walk in mud.
Farmers are often worried about finding the animal food they are supposed to provide for their heifers. But we try to grow grass and other plants that should cover 70% of the nutrition the animals are supposed to get; the other 30% comes from concentrated food. We sometimes struggle to provide the animals with the right nutrition, but we always do our best to come up with solutions. We purchase hay and other types of animal feed from farmers.
- How do you measure your success over the years?
At the beginning, we started out with cows that weren’t a good breed. As a result, we weren’t able to get the desired amount of milk. We used to get only two liters of milk a day from a cow. So, we sold our cows and got cows of a better breed and that resulted in a tremendous change within a short period of time. Today, we have a cow we call Nura, which gives us 34 liters of milk per day. Generally, we get 22 liters of milk from a single cow every day, which led us to expand our products. Today, Zack Farm’s products include milk, yogurt, cheese, mozzarella and butter.
- Are there any courses you took to help you improve your skills in the profession?
After my husband passed away, it was a really hard time for me. However, everyone from the Mistry of Agriculture and the sub-region’s administrators motivated me to get up and start working on what he had started. My kids took the responsibility after their father since they grew up watching him. Now, two of my kids have Certificate in Animal Science. I have also taken many courses given by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Eritrean Women Farmers Association which have helped me to share ideas with different individuals. Those courses and discussions helped me to see that there are a lot of things that we can do here as farmers. I am motivated to work harder.
- If there is any message you would like to convey at last.
First, we all need to have the greatest will power to start doing anything at all. I would like to remind everyone interested in the farming business, especially women, that the Ministry of Agriculture extends a lot of support. And by joining the Eritrean Women Farmers Association, they can grow themselves through sharing ideas and learning techniques they didn’t know.