Raised, the feet of the cattle arrive at eye level. Patricia Aumonier, partner of this five-generation old family business, masters the gesture and the response. Each teat is cleaned “with a detergent soap to clean the dirt”, she explains before placing a milking cluster there, which imitates the gesture of milking.
In this farm “where there has always been a member of the family to manage it and cows”, Benoît Gavelle, 37, joined his two parents and his aunt, Laurence Aumonier, in 2018 after a course “at the outside”, within an agricultural bank.
He is the fourth partner in the operation, but in the next few years the other three will be of retirement age. Benoît Gavelle is part – for the moment anyway? – of the last generation of possible buyers…
Today, half of dairy farmers in France are over 50 years old and according to projections by the Institut de l’Élevage, France will have 56,300 farm managers in 2030, compared to 88,000 in 2019, a decrease by 36%.
To compensate for the departure of his associates, Benoît Gavelle will have to call on employees, “but it’s quite complicated to find”, he says. “And then, there is the question of the attractiveness of the breeding professions”, perceived as exhausting and not sufficiently remunerative.
– Rethinking the model –
This is the problem that is trying to solve, a few kilometers to the south, in Lévis-Saint-Nom in the Yvelines, a recently inaugurated pilot farm.
To attract young people to farming, it is testing a new model so that farmers no longer have to work seven days a week, so that they are no longer poor, and to improve animal welfare, while improving environmental impact – all at once.
Behind the Godets dairy project, which cost 1.4 million euros, there is the Hectar school, founded by Audrey Bourolleau, former agricultural adviser to Emmanuel Macron, and Xavier Niel, but also the fund Danone for the ecosystem.
“The idea of the Godets dairy is to pass on to newcomers the instructions for use of an installation which is economically secure, which allows a balance of life, and that is perhaps what that we must document the most today”, underlines Audrey Bourolleau.
On this farm, which has 60 dairy cows and 60 hectares, there is only one milking per day, instead of the usual two, so that the three employees on the site can have supervised working hours, and no more one in four weekends worked.
The cows, equipped with a connected collar to monitor their health, are on pasture all year round, summer and winter, following a system of “dynamic rotational grazing”, where the herd only has access to a plot of land. at a time, allowing resting areas to regenerate without interference.
The objective is to produce 200,000 liters of organic milk per year, processed on site to make yoghurts and cheese.
“It’s something that opens new paths and it’s interesting” but not “to feed the planet”, says Emmanuel Vasseneix, vice-president of Syndilait, which brings together French manufacturers of drinking milk, clearly wondering on the adaptation of this model to industrial use.
The model is not applicable everywhere, “each farm and each context being different”, says Yann-Gaël Rio, of Danone. The documentation will make it possible to “reproduce elements on other farms” to adapt to “the requirement on social and environmental performance much higher than twenty years ago”, he continues.