IT's possibly not a country that Australian cattle producers would associate with beef production.
And while tiny compared with Australia's 25 million head herd, Croatia in central Europe is home to a thriving and surprisingly well-organised cattle industry.
Farm owner and cattle producer Renata Biscan was on hand at the recent Alltech Global event in Deauville, France, to give an insight into how a picturesque country, which is a little over half the size of Tasmania, is building a reputation as a top-quality supplier of beef in the EU and Middle East markets.
To put Croatia into perspective, the nation has a population of 4.3 million people and covers some 56,594 square kilometres -about 3 per cent of Queensland's area. Its cattle herd is estimated to be about 265,000 head, a large percentage of which is brought in neighbouring countries to be fed for slaughter.
The country is located east of Italy across the Adriatic Sea and shares land borders with Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Located in the highly productive Bilogora region of central Croatia and about 100km north of the capital Zagreb, Renata's 800ha BIK farm has about 1000 bulls on feed at any given time.
The cattle are housed in four barns, or 'stables' as they are called in Croatia, and fed a formulated ration based on corn, triticale, cereal hay, corn silage and concentrates. Hay is fed in the morning, concentrate of corn at noon and a complete ration in the evening. Much of the dry matter is grown on the farm.
Apart from Renata's herd of 10 pet cows, a bull and their calves, all of the cattle are bought in mobs of 250 head.
Bulls are road transported from a number of countries including Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia at about 200kg and grown to about 650 to 700kg.
Renata, who studied agricultural engineering at university, said the ration was calculated to deliver a 1.2 to 1.25kg/head/day weight gain.
At market weight the bulls are primarily sold into Croatia, Italy and the Middle East, which have a preference for bright red, lean beef with white fat.
Currently bulls ready for slaughter are selling for 1.90-2.10 euros/kg live (A$2.75-$3.04/kg live).
Croatia is also warming to the advantages of being part of the European Union.
"It's certainly easier to travel and there are advantages in dealing in a single currency with the other countries from where we buy our cattle," Renata said. "The greatest challenge remains actually being paid."
Subsidies also form about 10 to 15pc of farm income. While the scheme is complicated, beef producers are given 170 euros/head (A$246) for animals aged 12 to 24 months that have been on the property for a minimum of 110 days.
In addition, there is a 100 euros/ha (A$145) payment for agricultural land, and lesser payments for land set aside for biodiversity.
The farm employs seven workers who earn about 550 euros a month (A$795).
Beef cattle vet Marin Spigelski said like many European countries, Croatia had a complicated market.
"Europe is still in recession," Dr Spigelski said. "It's difficult for everyone, not just farmers. There is no way a farm business could exist without subsidies."
The Alltech Global event gathered beef and dairy producers from around the world.
The company operates in 128 countries and specialises in animal health and nutrition. It is offering free on-farm assessments of livestock-feeding systems.