mardi 13 décembre 2011

The sheep industry in Franche-Comté: presentation and interaction with the lynx

Franche-Comté is a region of eastern France, next to Switzerland :

In Franche-Comté, the presence of the lynx is sometimes a problem because it can cause damage on sheep farm. It seemed appropriate to make a point on the sheep industry in this region and identify the role of the Chamber of Agriculture for farmers affected by lynx :

Meeting with Yoan AGUER
Yoan is a facilitor and is responsible for missions in the sheep sector at the Regional Chamber of Agriculture of Franche-Comté.
The case of the Franche-Comté is special because there are few sheep farms compared to cattle farms. Thus, Yoan Aguer fills many diverse roles.

1) The different roles of Yoan :
  • He develops and coordinates the actions of the sheep industry :

   Meeting between agricultural cooperatives, unions sheep and sheep inter-professions to discuss the issues of the sheep sector and implement an action program for the year.

  • He leads :
      • The union for the promotion of sheep and its products at public fairs for example.

      • The inter-professional sheep: two types of actions are undertaken. The first round is the communication with young people in agricultural education (presentation of the sector, courses, organization of Ovinpiades (see cons below). The second round is the promotion of lamb, for example thanks to the action "Agneau presto" ("Lamb presto"), result of an alliance Ireland-France-Great Britain. People consume little lamb so new products are developed to attract this clientele.

      • The Ovinpiades young shepherds. They take place on a regional and national event (2 winners go to Paris at "le Salon de l'Agriculture" ). Then there is a European final and a world one (respectively in Ireland and New Zealand for the 2011 edition). This event helps attract young people and raise people about the sector.
      The Chamber gives its support to the cooperatives in their restructuring. In 2011 for example, the Cooperative Franche-Comte Animals (industry both equine and sheep) will merge with the Cooperative Breeding Franche-Comté.

The sheep industry also organizes training for farmers and disseminates technical and economic references to the farmer so that he can compare his figures to his region.
The Regional Coordinator can also make a link between the national and the industry.

2) Some figures in Franche-Comté

120 farms with less than 50 to 100 ewes
240 farms with more than 50 sheeps
60% of the herd is located in the "Haute-Saône"
59% of the OTEX * are cattle against 2% of sheep and goats
No AOC for the sheep industry (there is specially the presence of AOC** cheese such as Comté and Morbier)

3) The actions of the Chamber of Agriculture in relation to lynx
  • Reminder : protection law of the Lynx lynx

      On September 19, 1979, several European countries (including France and Sweden) signed the Berne Convention. Annex 2 establishes that the European lynx is now a strictly protected species (before the convention, the lynx was rated only "species not strictly protected" and a regulatory policy could be applied). The Convention applies to all signatory countries.

Spain has set conditions depending on the region where the animal was, contrary to France.

  • In the case of lynx attacks :
 - they begin discussions with the farmer to implement solutions
 - they support the farmer in his dealings with the DDT (Departmental Agency of Territories)
 - they send him the exact current laws
 - they help him to set up protective devices

       In 2008: 15 farmers were registered for the "sheep dog formation" but only 6 breeders were present.

      These facts do not encourage the industry which is already fragile.
      Although the Health Check of the CAP permited to improve the income of farmers in the average of other productions, requests to set up a farm are scarce.

      The sheep often values ​​the areas with low potential, neglected by other productions.
Breeders have important role in the maintenance of the countryside and this is to consider!

      Those who own small herds have other concerns and other characteristics: they are sometimes GAEC with dairy cows and have introduced a small flock of sheep to get more milk quotas.
Some have a herd of 50 to 100 sheep, sometimes less, and have another job. It is rather this profile that is brought to disappear if a lynx complicates the organization of farming in place.
      These people do not necessarily mobilize the same means of protection that a farmer whose income depends on the flock of sheep.
      In the "Doubs", compared to France, there is a high proportion of farms of less than 80 ewes while the concentration of resources is focused on farms of more than 80 sheep, eligible for technical support (in France, this corresponds to ¾ breeders).

      An average of 50 observations of attacks by lynx are made each year in the region of Franche-Comté (46 in 2009). There is unique and timely attacks or outbreaks of attacks (there is even a phenomenon of specialization of the lynx in some places).
In the latter case, the effectiveness of solutions implemented will depend on the effectiveness of guard dogs, the control of the farmer (if he has the impression of having or not having protection solutions made ) ...
We have to adapt to the structure of exploitation, the distribution of herds on the different grassland area.
      Direct damage (death of the animal and injuries) can be quantified but the indirect damage is more difficult to identified (stress, abortion ...)
The compensation will depend on the high genetic value of the herd or if it is registered as good quality. There is a schedule of compensation:
80c/animal part of the herd attacked by a wolf
76c/animal part of the herd attacked by lynx

      In the case of an attack, the lynx can cause abortions and refer the lambing period.
This delay can have serious consequences, especially in the case of farmers selling to a butcher who is expecting a steady supply.
      In the case of small herds where the sustainability of the operation is in question, repeated attacks by lynx encourage farmers out of business. Like the theft of animals as an incentive to stop.
The lynx is not the sole reason, it's part of a whole.

My opinion

      Here we see the complexity of the problem: I agree for the conservation of the lynx but it induces many provisions to protect also the livelihood of some farmers sadly known to be hotbeds of the lynx attacks.
The sheep industry is fragile in Franche-Comté but has significant assets to attract the younger generation. Lynx must not deter them.
The research for protective devices on herds should continue through field experiments.

Learn more about the sheep industry in Franche-Comte: click here
* OTEX: Tecnical and Economic Orientation of Farm
** AOC: a designation of controlled origin

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