Case Study

Building on existing infrastructure


Building on existing infrastructure


1. Introduction

The business builds on previous experience and family traditions, and an existing infrastructure of a former agricultural cooperative. After the Velvet Revolution, during the 1990s, many state-owned farms were transformed into private companies, and the Farm Milko Ltd. is one of them. The existing infrastructure was a key factor that helped to start the business.

2. Basic information

Main promoter

Jana Lešková / Farm Milko Ltd.

Start of the practice



Ľubietová, Slovakia

Organisations involved
  • Cooperative(s)
Total surface of land farmed in ha
  • 40 ha
Ownership of the land used for transhumance farming
  • Own land: 10 ha
  • Rented public land
Basic produce
  • Milk
  • Meat
SK032 Banská Bystrica Region
  • Main farm

    Farm and summer pastures


3. Situation before startup/ change/ continuation

The Farm Milko Ltd. follows the family tradition and the historical ways of land use in the village of Ľubietová. In the past, there was a municipal shepherd’s hut. In winter, livestock was kept in the stables and, in the summer period, on the mountain pastures around the village.

After the forced transfer of private land and properties to the state administration during the communist era (1950-1989), the farm’s family members worked at the local agricultural cooperative. In the last years of its existence, the enterprise suffered from a shortage of employees. After the Velvet Revolution, the state-managed companies were gradually returned to the private owners, or it was possible to repurchase them under favourable terms.

The former employees of the cooperative in Ľubietová were not interested in continuing the business. Finally, in 1992, the current owners of the Farm Milko Ltd. decided to buy the cooperative. They set up a family business, where they apply their multi-generational experience in livestock farming, mainly sheep. The lack of employees is a recurring challenge. Currently, this is the primary constraint that hinders the development of the business.

4. Transhumance farming business description

Landscape type

The Farm Milko Ltd. operates in the hilly mountainous pastural landscape in the northern foothills of the neovolcanic Poľana Mountain range. The natural limit of human economic activities are landslides. Historically, the village was known for copper mining and related mining industry. From the 14th to the 19th century, it was one of the seven mining towns of the Hungarian Monarchy, contributing significantly to its economic and cultural development of the Hungarian Monarchy.

E-Atlas: Pasture.

Animal type/ breed

The farm owners successfully crossbreed the traditional Slovakian Wallachian sheep and the French Lacaune. The result is sheep with a reasonable amount of hair, delicious milk and meat. The advantage of crossing breeds is, for example, the hair characteristics of the sheep. In the summer, during hot days, the Wallachian breed can be weighted down and overheated with the thick, long hair. Crossbreeds have different hair, and heat is less challenging for them. In the autumn, at the end of September, crossbreeds are stabled earlier because of their thinly coated bellies. The quality of milk and meat is also advantageous, as crossbreds are tastier than purebred breeds. Crossbreeding renews the gene pool and minimises inbreeding.

Movement patterns

This is a case of vertical movement. A specific grazing feature is the mountain pastures at higher altitudes above the village, where the animals freely graze pastures in the countryside during the summer. A flock moves to the pastures on foot, as does the shepherd and the accompanying guard dogs. Herbal species composition positively affects the quality of milk and meat.

Kind of cooperation

The company operates vertical cooperation in the market. It sells its dairy and meat products to the high-volume processing industry.

Markets addressed/ product selling

The farm is one of many suppliers to both domestic and foreign markets.

Threats & challenges

The business development currently needs more staff. Modern housing has developed and the rural housing function has changed from productive agricultural to more or less residential, or residential-recreational. These developments resulted in the transfer of labour from the agricultural sector mainly to the service and business sector in the towns.

5. Decisions taken


The most crucial reason for starting the business was the social connection to the family business.

Decision for the kind of animal/ specific breed

The farm has improved the genetic quality of the sheep bred by crossing a traditional Slovak breed – the traditional Wallachian sheep and the French Lacaune breed.

Decision for the production system

From the beginning, the farm has focused on organic farming in the countryside.

Diversification of income

The farm’s main income consists of the sale of meat and milk production. The products are of very high quality and appreciated by the purchasers. This is mainly due to the high-quality pastures. The pastures are partly located on church land which is of good quality. Already in the past, the pasture plots were valued for their high quality and the presence of water resources. These are essential for the operation of the shepherd’s hut.

Multifunctional aspects

The farm tries to preserve the ecological quality of the pastures as much as possible and adapts its grazing practices accordingly. Thanks to its sensitive approach, seasonal grazing helps to maintain certain species, supports biodiversity and helps to keep the overall diversity of landscape structures. In the future, the farm wishes to be involved in developing education in cooperation with secondary vocational schools in vocational education and training programs and in the promotion of pastoralism.

6. Training/ skills to establish the business

Existing infrastructure is necessary for a successful start in business. If infrastructure is not present, external finance is necessary (for instance, as a non-refundable financial contribution). A worker in the field of transhumance should graduate from the relevant field ending with a state graduation exam. At the same time, the person should have a positive attitude towards the environment: “to live and do not harm nature”.

7. Next steps to move on

The accommodation problem for seasonal workers on the pasture needs to be solved in the future. Unsuitable conditions for accommodation during the summer season, when the shepherds are on the farm, negatively affect applicants when choosing a profession.

Experience shows that if the farm could provide good quality seasonal mobile accommodation for applicants (for instance a kind of caravan called in Slovak “maringotka”), students would be more interested in the profession. Therefore, it is essential to test a modern type of dwelling in future projects and invite secondary vocational school students to join. Students could practice their skills directly in the shepherd’s hut and try to live in the countryside.

In the future, mobile homes could also be used in agritourism. A network of mobile accommodation facilities would support the development of tourism in economically marginal areas of Slovakia, such as traditional mountain pastoral landscapes.

8. Quote and recommendation of the promoter

The most important factor for starting a business is the existing infrastructure (farm buildings, machinery, land) or non-refundable financial support from projects that can be used to purchase infrastructure.

Recruiting workers trained in livestock farming is essential, ideally focusing on shepherding.