“We lose a Reblochon per day and per cow”, or about 5% of production, “the elders evoke the drought of 1976 or 2003, I was too young”, says Théo Bargetzy, 28, including six in the of the GAEC des Lorettes (Haute-Savoie).

At the hottest of the summer, the thermometer exceeded 30° at 1,600 meters above sea level on the heights of La Clusaz, the snowfields of the Aravis chain melted, leaving the gray rock bare, the meadows roasted for lack rain. The cows give less milk and a less rich milk, which weighs on the yield.

In the valleys, the farms endured the effects of a historic heat wave punctuated in mid-August by a brief episode of rain, barely enough to green the meadows. And overall, milk production is “down 15% compared to last year” in weekly readings, according to the Association of Traditional Cheeses of the Savoyard Alps (AFTAlp).

Above all, several dozen breeders have started to start their winter fodder to feed their herd and continue the production of raw milk cheeses – Reblochon, Tomme, Beaufort, Raclette or Emmental.

“The situation is complicated, we have already experienced droughts, but there, it takes everywhere, in France, in Italy and elsewhere in Europe”, underlines Jean-Luc Duclos, the president of AFTAlp.

Already affected by “the explosion of gas and electricity charges linked to the crisis in Ukraine”, many fear a shortage of hay and a speculative effect, according to him.

This 50-year-old manages with his family more than 200 head of cattle for the sale of meat and the production of Emmental. Located near Frangy (Haute-Savoie), his large farm equipped with a robotic milking system controlled by a digital application no longer has much to do with the modest breeding of his grandfather – “four cows on four hectares for feed eleven children.

“Before, livestock farming was part of the subsistence economy, but it is becoming more professional, there are fewer and fewer small farms even if it remains very heritage”, comments Felix Gallet, 46, technical manager of the cooperative of the reblochon farmer from Thônes.

His job: to control, from the barn to the cellar, the conditions of production of traditional cheeses that some countries see as “dangerous” products because of the bacteriological risks associated with raw milk.

– “Empty hands” –

In Thônes, a town of 7,000 inhabitants self-proclaimed “capital of Reblochon”, the cooperative shop is always full.

Some days, “tourists who go up to the alpine farm leave empty-handed because production is not enough to meet demand, especially with this year of drought”, explains Théo Bargetzy.

The young breeder makes his farmhouse reblochons and tommes on site. He learned the basics in vocational high school “and the rest in the field, day after day”.

After milking, the still hot milk is curdled with natural rennet – from the “above” extracted from the calves’ stomachs -, distributed in cloth-lined molds and then pressed by hand. The Reblochons are dried in the cellar on wooden boards until a creamy orange-yellow crust forms. You need at least four liters of milk per piece, the 450-gram farmer’s Reblochon sells for 8 euros on the farm.

To cushion the increase in costs, Savoyard producers have already raised the prices of their cheeses by 5 to 10% since the start of 2022, according to AFTAlp.

“It’s hard to go higher, even for a quality cheese: you have to take into account the purchasing power of consumers,” says Felix Gallet, while some in the sector recommend a further increase of at least 5%.

The dairy production of the two Savoies represents 1.5% of national production and 15% of the volumes of labeled cheeses in France.

In 2021, this mountainous region which has 220,000 ha of alpine pastures produced 39,850 tonnes of labeled cheeses (AOP and IGP) for an estimated turnover of 320 million euros, according to AftAlp.