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Ag in my Land: Life on a French dairy farm

Ag in my Land is an online series that celebrates farming globally, providing an insight in to what life is like on-farm around the world.


Emily   Ashworth

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Emily   Ashworth
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Ag in my land: Life on a French dairy farm

Vincent Luherne, 32, farms in Brittany, West France and works on the family dairy farm.

 

Where do you farm and on what scale?

 

The farm is in the west of France, right next to the Gulf of Morbihan. We have 190 hectares of land, selling grain alongside the dairy business. We mainly grow grassland, corn, alfalfa and have some wheat and rapeseed too. In terms of our herd, there is 130 holsteins and 130 followers.

 

How did you get in to farming?

 

I am from a farming family. I work with my parents and brother alongside a farm apprentice. My grandparents were also in the industry.


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Can you describe the area where you farm?

 

Our farm is about twenty-four kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean and ten kilometres from the town of Vannes. It’s a very wooded area, with many small areas of moorlands – the nearest village only consists of five houses so it is quite isolated.

 

What do you feed your cows?

 

I grow alfalfa mixtures (peas, oats and vetch) for silage and grow arable crops for corn and wholecrop. The goal is to produce the maximum amount of protein on-farm as possible to avoid buying food.

 

Describe your typical day

 

We often work in tandem in the morning during milking. One person will milk while the other takes care of cleaning for example.


Around 9am, we take a coffee break and around 9:30am, there is a discussion of the work needed to be done for the day. Afternoon work varies. There is work in the fields to be done, plus equipment maintenance.

 

In winter the heifers are outdoors, from late February to November. In the summer months, like June and July, there is very little pasture as the grass is very dry.

second part

What is your biggest obstacle?

 

The first is probably prices. I sell my milk to the cooperative, Sodiaal, at €3.30/1000 litres dependant on quality. Secondly, our goal is to run the farm as simple and economically as we can to limit farm production costs but it became very stressful about 18 months ago when we had to invest in storage to house the manure during the milk price crisis.

 

What do you love most about your job?

 

I like working close to, and hand in hand with, nature. To experience the rhythm of time and seasons is what I really enjoy. The contact with animals is also a positive for me, and I am lucky work with family.

 

What is the farming community like in your area?

 

In France, farming varies by region. In my area there are farms with more cows than in other parts of the country - the west of France has much larger dairy farms.

 

How does the industry compare with UK dairy farming?

 

In terms of climate, we have pretty much the same as you – favourable grazing conditions.

As for prices, they are fair if one compares them to the world price but it is the incidental costs that are important.

 

The big highlight here is land prices and agricultural rents as they are very low compared to the UK and the rest of Europe.

 

What does the future look like for your industry?

 

For many farmers the future is uncertain. The average age of farmers here is very high, and many young people do not want to care for cows as there is a lot of work. The problem is also the lack of manpower - hiring employees is very expensive and rare. I believe in milk production, but this requires an economic policy within the firm, to be as independent as possible and whenever possible make the most of grazing. My biggest concern now is the link between the population and the agricultural world. Consumers need to regain confidence in agriculture.

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