Donkey milk business transforms a Bosnian family's life

Source: Pixabay (ilustracija)

When Alen Dzindo gave his son donkey milk to try and cure his coughing and insomnia, he never expected that it could open the door to a business that ended up supporting his family of six.

When Dzindo, a Bosniak, returned to his pre-war home in 2003 in the northeastern Bosnian town of Vlasenica, he found an ethnic Serb family from Sarajevo living in it. Despite this, he moved in and began renovating the house.

“We lived together for a year, under the same roof, until they built their own house and moved. They stayed here in Vlasenica and still today we are friends and we maintain a great relationship,” Dzindo said, adding that he has a lot of Serb friends in Vlasenica.

“We work together, we help each other, we celebrate all holidays together, and we share the good and the bad,” he said.

Although Dzindo is a trained traffic technician and his wife Meliha is a chemist, they found no jobs when they came back to Vlasenica. They managed to get by somehow for several years.

But then, their oldest son, Tarik, became severely ill.

“We took the child to various hospitals for three months,” they said.

The boy was then hospitalised at the Slavinovici Clinic for Department of Pulmonary Diseases in Tuzla.

“The child coughed all the time. He couldn’t sleep, they had to give him sedatives. He lost his voice because of the severe coughing,” Dzindo explained.

Doctors then advised the family to take the boy to a clinic in Kamenica, near the Serbian town of Novi Sad, which is better equipped. However, the family could not afford it.

“I think that it was 4,500 for ten days in the hospital and the tests, which we didn’t have,” he explained.

“But then a nurse suggested we should try to give the child donkey milk as an alternative cure. In such situations, you do anything you can, so we tried it,” he said.

A few days later the family bought a donkey, as this made more sense financially than searching for the milk.

“We took the child out of the hospital, and we brought him home. We also took the donkey home, and my wife began to milk it. Several times each day, up to a half a coffee cup, because a jenny only gives a decilitre, or a decilitre and a half of milk every day,” Dzindo explained.

The boy regained his voice after drinking the milk for six days, Dzindo said.

“After that, he began sleeping without needing sedatives, his coughing decreased… and on the eleventh day, my child was healthy as if he had never even been sick, and he started going to school in Sarajevo,” he said.

But the child’s fate also opened up the opportunity for a new business for the family.

The story about the boy’s improved health spread throughout the neighbourhood, among friends, and further.

“The father of a friend, an old man, 80 years of age, didn’t leave the house due to severe asthma. After several days of consuming donkey milk, he began walking, he didn’t want to enter the house anymore,” Dzindo said.

He said that people were amazed, and began asking him for donkey milk.

But donkeys can only be milked when they have offspring. When the offspring stops suckling, the donkey may lose the milk within 24 hours, he said.

“I couldn’t explain to people that there is no milk anymore, so, over a cup of coffee, my wife suggested that we should start a business of producing and selling donkey milk,” he said.

This was four years ago. Today, the family has a herd of between 40 or 50 donkeys.

“Old people say that revealing the true number (of one’s herd) is not good and that this is how you may jinx it, so I always say that I have less than 50, but more than 40,” he said, laughing.

The first two donkeys were put into a wooden shed. When the number grew to about six or seven, a cousin gave the Dzindo family an abandoned house nearby. Soon after, the family bought 300-square-metres plot of land, and after they acquired the means to do so, they built a barn there. The family then bought the surrounding land, and built a farm on 20 hectares of land.

“We managed to achieve everything with our own work and investments. We bought the land, we borrowed money, paid back our debt, and we turned a jungle into a pasture,” he said, adding that he received no donations from anyone, including the government.

That is because he was never a member of a political party, he said.

“I don’t visit mosques or churches, I don’t ask anyone for any charity, and those in power today, they don’t like such people, they don’t give them anything, they take away things when they can,” he said.

Despite all the work and sacrifices, the Dzindo family said it all paid off, and that they never even thought about leaving Bosnia.

Dzindo said that nothing is regulated properly in Bosnia and that, young people would not be looking to leave the country if the government gave them jobs and a decent salary.

“In neighbouring Croatia, the state subsidy for one milking donkey is 250. Here, it is not even included in the laws,” he said.

Dzindo explained that, for his family, the day starts at six in the morning and lasts until late into the night. It is a family business, and every family member plays a role, he said.

Apart from donkeys, the Dzindo family also owns a breeding mare, a young goat, two ponies, two dogs, several chicken and cats, and they are now also building a fowl cage to further expand their farm.

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