We need to work in a proactive manner

On July 21st 2017 Sergey Altukhov, the general director of the Green Dale Group of Companies had a talk with the journalists of Kommersant-Chernozemye business newspaper.

1The interview for the famous establishment took place as a part of a special project issue named «Territory of proaction. Belgorod region».

The goal of the project is to analyze the target areas of the government and business mutual work which put the region on a new, competitive stage of development.

After the interview the article written by Viktoria Shevchenko and called «To live happily we need to work in a proactive manner» was published in Kommersant-Chernozemye newspaper and on their website on the 8th of August (https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3374254). You will find the whole article below. 

Green Dale, the Belgorod company, took economically ineffective farms under its command in 2011 and was able to build the agricultural holding where they’re now working with the latest technologies of dairy livestock area and high quality feed production area. Moreover: the Green Dale Group of Companies started the implementation of the project aimed to prove that the outlined plan of the Belgorod region government on the way to «big milk» namely 1 mln tons can be implemented not through an increase in dairy herd production. The first results are appeared to be very convincing: every year a milk gain per one dairy cow in Green Dale makes 500 liters, the yield per a head makes from 8,5 up to 9 thousand liters. The company is planning to have 12 thousand liters as a norm. Sergey Altukhov, the general director of the Green Dale Group of Companies Managing Company speaks about the approaches for steady and effective business.   

- Today the Green Dale Group of Companies is considered to be the center of professional competences of dairy livestock, the concentration of high-productive animals, advanced technologies and qualified personnel, the place where milk volume was increased in several times… What’s your formula of success?


- The formula of success is always people. The personnel of a company is like a football team: people should play like a united team but not like a group of characters according to Lee Yakoka, the famous American manager. We have managed to create this kind of team. We started out our business almost with nothing: reconstruction; equipping; recruiting of the staff which is able to work in fundamentally new conditions; search for business partners; learning about advanced world experience; construction of new dairy farms; import of elite animals; total update of agricultural vehicles park. We have been working hard in order to increase the efficiency of production through the foundation of the organizing system of the whole process. It was necessary to create a clear system of management. The huge volume of output, which was originally aimed to be produced, means clear production discipline and scientifically proved labor organization.

- The labor organization always has two sides: natural/technical side and social/economical side. Which side was emphasized?    

-  Both sides are tied together and interact constantly with each other. The emphasis was made on simple and well-known things: the administration of the company is busy creating the labor conditions for its employees, providing them with all necessary resources and materials, the management of the company gives clear tasks daily, controls their performing, assess the quality of work and gives feedback to an employee. We initiated the labor measurement system and category system of payment for tractor drivers and other drivers employed by the group of companies. Within the system the five-category qualification net was created: from 20 000 Ruble – the 1st category, up to 60 000 Rubles – the 5th category.   

We have created the automatic system of production processes monitoring with a program of external processes which passes the information about performed works into the 1C program (management of agricultural companies) to make automatic report about tractor drivers efficiency. The main idea is working hard means earning a lot. It is not a secret that if you don’t train and motivate an employee – you will not get even 5 000 liters of milk from a cow.
 
A corporate commitment of personnel plays a very important role. The experience of the winner of    The Best Employer 2017 research made by Aon Hewitt Skyline Group of Companies is convincing for us. The company motivates its employees to become super fans of their work which in turn increases the possibility of new talented employees hiring. We used this principle while recruiting staff in Valuyski region: for our advertising banner we have used the pictures of our own employees instead of some unknown people. These employees are proud of the fact that they work in Green Dale.

 

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Thus, the implementation of a «to get to the top of pyramid» principle makes us able to be ahead where the first step is an industrious worker and the next level is a member of a team and so on. And it is very well-known that a pyramid is a very solid structure… The benefit of the implemented programs is obvious: today we have already increased the labor efficiency by 27%.


-  How do you think if the time had changed the saying «people make all the difference» for the phrase «technics and technologies make all the difference»? What goes first in terms of your company?  

-  The machines are just pieces of iron without well-trained and motivated workers. Dairy livestock area is specific one. Apathetic people don’t work here. 1470 people are employed by the Green Dale Group of Companies. The average age of the personnel is 40 years old. We have staff reserve, and we have developed the programs of qualification improvement for our employees. Every second employee updates his professional qualification once a year.     

New technologies, new modern facilities require new ways of staff training. To manage these kinds of facilities isn’t anywhere near managing small farms.

To manage all this scientific and production system,
we need not just simple livestock operators, veterinarians, inseminators, genetics specialists but progressively thinking people.

-  This probably dictates a special approach for staff recruiting?  

-  There is a «matryoshka principle». It is used by many companies. When you’re dismantling matryoshka, it is getting smaller and smaller. It is the same situation when a manager hires an employee weaker than himself to avoid competitiveness and this employee in his turn gets even weaker worker and so on. I eliminated this principle: I am hiring deputies and assistants who are better than I because the main manager cannot know everything. I need my assistants to be experts in certain areas. It is impossible to manage a large company in a same way as to manage a small one where everything is based on one manager. We have specialists – experts in their areas and their opinion and knowledge are important for me. We are using consultative method to come to right decisions and develop our company. Besides we also want to listen to the employees let’s say so who are staying at a bottom part of a pyramid. We have electronic workflow in our company for that reason. A person who wants to get his message across the high management can write an electronic letter to a manager of any level. People suggest interesting ideas and express their minds which help us to improve our work. We have a rule: if you suggest a good idea you should help to implement it.          

We have built a dormitory to attract staff from other regions. But still we mostly count on the citizens from our own region. We have also implemented a training institute for young specialists. It is easier to train them than retrain.

For the people who want to come to success for the common benefit, the company suggests not only high salary but also the confidence in the future and the real opportunity of training including abroad training.   
 
For instance now we are exploring a new trend in breeding and genetics area. The young specialists of the agricultural holding will have to implement the process. They will learn about flushing and transferring of embryos at the best farms of Europe. The first group is now having training in Holland. The innovative research equipment will be installed in our production laboratory for their arrival.  

The Green Dale Group of Companies became a supporting employer for the Korochanski agricultural college and it is operating based on the principle of dual education. The agricultural holding gives the students the opportunity of practice, and the choice of specialties is rather big. Every student from his first days at the college can feel that he is a part of a big team. The first specialists have already come to work for Green Dale in 2017.


We have developed the «Let’s think about our young people» program. We are ready to invest into active, promising, goal-seeking young people and help them to build their career and their future in one of the advanced companies of the country. At the expense of Green Dale we are suggesting training, traineeship with labor remuneration, professional development, and accommodations for a period of practice, food and uniform supply. We employ students based on the results of practice.
   
-  When you analyze the logics and consistency of the agricultural holding management actions concerning the company structurization and business processes forming you can’t help thinking that everything is going exactly in accordance with the already written detailed scenario which eliminates well-known trial and error approach which takes a lot of time. Isn’t this impression right? Who plays the main role?

 
 
It might be life itself which tells us: if you deviate from your path at least for one step soon you will find yourself on a different road… That’s why our control points are Standards, Regulations and Technological Protocols. I started all the words with capital letters emphasizing their exclusive importance.

We even have a corporate principle: All that is written – should be done, all that is done – should be described!  

This principle helps us to stay among the leaders in many areas. For example the quality of our silage was approved at the 21st International Specialized Exhibition named «Grain – mixed feed – veterinary - 2016»: our silage took the 3rd place according to the results of independent analysis made by BLGG laboratory which tested more than 2,5 thousand different samples of corn silage from all over Russia.  

The managing company has developed production programs for all of the farms and implemented the control and accounting system of production indicators. The united system of purchasing, budgeting and financial management makes us able to control the expenses and eliminates incidences of malpractice at the farms. United standards decrease the impact of human factor and help to get the planned results.

A complex approach to the quality control of the product allows Green Dale guarantee high class milk supply for processing factories. Such approach also guarantee good salary, perfect labor conditions, social package, the opportunity of training and professional development which means stability and confidence in the future.    

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-  The ideology of the company lies in the foundation of a super modern perfect agricultural holding. Is this so?  

-  Well, you could say that. Everybody knows the Olympic motto – «Faster, higher, stronger!» which laconically expresses the real desire for honest competition and positive impact of sport on a person. Why not using this ideology in business? This ideology helps us to find our own decent place in the world, to work in peace and harmony. We want to build a modern, competitive national company.

-  The investment activity of the company is rather impressive. Is there any link between this investment activity and the investment climate of the region and the position of the governor?

-  Of course Evgeniy Savchenko, the governor, sets the tone for this activity. From the day of the agricultural holding foundation the investments portfolio made almost 4 mln Rubles. The bulk of those funds were put in construction of Heather Farm, a super modern dairy farm for 1980 milking cows. The guarantee support for the project was provided by the Corporation of small and middle-sized businesses development and by the Belgorod insurance fund for lending promotion. The other farms will soon follow: another dairy farm for 1980 milking cows and a heifer farm with specialized housing conditions for 4180 young animals which is planned to start operating at the beginning of 2018.

In addition to the construction of new dairy farms, other serious projects were implemented in 2016: two full-cycled complexes for grain and oil-bearing crops treatment and storage have been built in Kupino village, Shebekinsky region and in Malakeevo village, Veydelevsky region. The production capacity of each facility is 50 tons per an hour and the storage capacity makes 20 000 tons. Both complexes were approved by the regional government and recognized as priority investment projects: the investments for each facility made 150 mln Rubles.

It is worth to note that besides economic benefit these two projects have a clear social impact: according to the citizens of the villages where the new facilities were built, the presence of such complexes raises the level of their villages.   


At present we are developing one more investment project which is The production of seeds material and commercial soya. The preliminary estimated figures of the project are 369.4 mln Rubles.

-  Evgeniy Savchenko the governor of the Belgorod region has made it a priority for the regional farmers: he gave them three years to start producing a million tons of milk per year which means an increase of the existing volumes of milk by a half. The strategic plans of your company are similar as we know – you want to reach 10-11 thousand liters of milk per a year per one cow. Will the improvement of nutrition base or breeding and genetic work help you to achieve this goal? How do you think what and who can help the Belgorod region try to become a dairy capital of Russia?    

-  First of all the breeding and genetic work can help. At present Europe and America are far ahead of us. Now we even forgot that the dairy livestock area was well developed back in USSR times and as for the achievements in this area, we were the leaders. Artificial examination, rotary milking unit, untied way of animals housing – these are our developments which foreign specialists are selling us now as their own «know-how».                

Now we have to import high-productive animals from abroad. Until we move in that direction ourselves, learn how to work with genetics, raise youngstock on our farms we will pay a lot more money than the local American or European farmers pay for the same cattle. And, there is no guarantee that we are being sold the best animals.  

Our dairy livestock technologies are far backwards compared to the technologies of Europe and America where the standard yield makes no less than 12 thousand liters of milk per a cow per a year. And we consider 8.5 thousand liters as a good result.

We have a big challenge now – to increase the production volume of milk up to 1 million tons per a year. But this task is achievable. We have learnt from our practice that special attention needs to be paid to personnel and genetics.

We started working with pedigrees and made serious investments into nucleus herd.

This herd is the base for our own breed, which we are trying to create within the frameworks of Ideal Cow program in order to get a cow with clearly defined parameters. For this herd we are using a semen of world elite sires. There are 24 pedigree sires in the agricultural holding with their mothers giving more than 10 000 kg of milk.

Recently we purchased one more unique pedigree sire. His official name is VeelhorstVekisPoliceNL 758117818. We call him simply – Police, our dream bull. The line of his ancestors has just started developing in the world so today we can recommend his biological product using on herds without any restraint and his production is higher than an average world indicator by 44%.   


Our next serious step will be the work with embryos, flushing and injecting them into nucleus heifers, the mothers of future super bulls and outstanding cows. We are planning to master the technology and as I have already said, our specialists are having their training in the Netherlands right now.

The first progeny from the embryos of elite parents tells us that we are on the right path. In March, our first baby bull Samson was born and he is the only ancestor of Miss America and Banderas. The bull has gone through the first genomic evaluation, his GTPI is 2600 Dollars, and he has 1300 liters of milk gain and 6 months plus of productive longevity. Considering his indicators, Samson is already a top bull. Now we are waiting for the evaluation results of two more calves.      
 
Recently one more super baby heifer was born on our farm and her father is the bull Montross. It is a number one bull in the world (he is in the top 10) with TPI 2744 and daughters’ production 13 071 kg of milk. Her mother’s father is the bull Kingboy and he is on the 6th place in the top 10 of the best world bulls with TPI 2567 and daughters production 13 589 kg of milk.

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In November 2016, the first regional exhibition of pedigree cattle called Our Breed was held among the companied of the agricultural holding where we had a chance to evaluate our existing genetic pool and identified our plan for its improvement. In addition, on May the 20th we had our first dairy festival. Almost all main milk producers of our region supported our idea to demonstrate the best animals. On July 29, my colleges and I visited a famous pedigree cattle show in Dokkum, the Netherlands, the motherland of Friesian breed. We have learnt about all the details of this event in order to organize our next show taking into account the world experience.  

However, the essential link in this work is the establishment of our own breeding and genetic center with the most advanced world class laboratory. Today we rely on foreign selection and that is why our strategic task is to create our own breeding and genetic company. The main conception of this company has been already developed by the Green Dale experts. According to the most realistic forecasts, the breeding and genetic center will be established in the next 3-4 years.

It is evident that the period of mass purchasing of quality animals and biological material is over. This is what the economy, the efficient business and food security of the country needs. That is why first of all we need to have our own high-productive herd.

The time when farmers were focusing only on gross production is over. Now we are interested both in milk quality and in cow health.

So, when we are selecting our bulls we are paying attention to their type, evaluating the possible strength of their daughters feet and the calving ease. And we can learn this information now and save several years.

-   The accomplished projects of the company tell us that Green Dale is very susceptible to novations and innovations. This was probably the reason why the Agency of Strategic Initiatives and the Fund of Innovation Assistance chose Green Dale as the place for the pilot project implementation within the frameworks of AeroNet road map. This passion for novations has only economic background or also your personal underlying motive?

-    First of all there is an economic reason. The project called Implementation of AeroNet Technologies in Agriculture is interesting for us that is why we decided to take part in it. We started the trial on March the 10th this year and we are planning to finish it in October 2017.


We are interested in getting high-precision maps of the fields with the help of drones which will include the existing roads and slopes and combine their electronic versions with cadastral maps. We would also like to monitor the condition of crops and the quality of performed work on the fields. Besides now we have an opportunity to predict the volumes of the future crop including the early phases of its development by counting the number of young plants per a hectare on each field; we can now trace the development of plants through defining of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI); study the dynamics of changes in the NDVI index after the use of fertilizers in the context of crops. Briefly the participation in this project will give us the foundation for serious analytics and further adjustment of crops raising process.


-  Our conversation on the subject of «big milk» went beyond the yields and gains and came into the area of independency and competitiveness of Russian livestock sector in general and of Belgorod region in particular. Is it your heart aching for home?

Yes, I am a patriot. I don’t think it is shameful to call my country the best one and the nation – the great one. People of the whole world are proud of their countries and of everything they gave them. Russian people also have something to be proud of. But for some reason they are embarrassed to express their patriotic feelings because they wrongly associate their patriotism with government power support. However, the patriotism is like blood circulation system in your body. It can only be demonstrated through actions not through words.

I, like my colleges, live in Belgorod. Here I have my family, house and children. Recently I became a grandfather. We are comfortable here. The same with every member of our team who wants to have stability and confidence in future. We invest our effort into future development and that means we invest in our own future and the future of our family.

The formula is simple: if we want to live happily, we need to work in a proactive way.

Photo report about the visit of the Kommersant-Chernozemye business newspaper journalists was made by Oleg Kharseev.