By Francois Lefebvre
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“I liked my first job. After serving in the army, I became a “replacement shepherd” on farms. Even today I meet breeders who remember that they first went on vacation because of me. »
Those were good times before the 2008 dairy crisis. Jacques Lamio I finally gave up dairy farming twelve years ago. “I couldn’t take it anymore,” recalls this farmer from Gisey-la-Coudre (commune of Mesnil-en-Oush in L’Er). The man, now 58, withdrew from the match for lack of compensation. There was not enough love for the business: the workload, the complexity of administrative support forced him to resell his livestock and milking equipment.
“The days never ended, the whole year without holidays! You won’t survive alone. You do your best to produce quality milk in large quantities and there is never any added value! »
Too high a human cost
The price of a man was too high. He still is, the news reminded him at the end of May 2022. The profession was ruined by the suicide of a dairy farmer near broilrelative Jacques Lamio. The tragedy was decided by a fifty-year-old elected union representative Rural coordination, speak in our columns, denounce the untenable situation. “There was a delicate situation, someone was very tired,” a resident is touched Gisey-la-Coudre which nevertheless describes a very great solidarity in the middle. “For big projects, we helped him with a few friends,” says the farmer. Per Jacques Lamio, apparently, his friend was driven to despair by the low pay of his work. This is the second dairy farmer close to the trade unionist to commit suicide in a few years. These dramas are particularly affecting dairy farmers in France, where almost 150 farmers resort to this desperate gesture every year.
“I know a lot of breeders who need to take a break,” points out for his part. Laurent Duclosbreeder in Capel-le-Grand and representative FNSEA for the dairy industry in‘eure. On the farms, we sometimes work 110 hours a week, a hell of a pace.
“There is a phenomenon of insularity associated with the fact that there is a lot of modesty in the agricultural world. They would like to solve their problems themselves. »
“It’s almost impossible to stop because replacement services are struggling to recruit. Questionable reward. “We are going in circles, there is no solution, everything is simply because the sector is no longer attractive. Laurent Duclos says
Unfortunately, the structural pressure on our breeders will not lessen, quite the contrary. After the war in Ukraine and rising prices for fuel and some agricultural inputs, the incomes of dairy farmers were further reduced. Fuel costs exorbitantly, and nutritional supplements, proteins (soy or rapeseed) have increased by almost 40%.
“You have to make a choice, I say this because I want consumers to know that the dairy farming profession no longer has a future with such restrictions. The current economic model does not take hardship into account and ignores fair remuneration. »
Decline of the sector
Inevitable consequence, small farms won’t survive or very hard, regrets Jacques Lamio. “A breeder who works as a couple on a farm of 50-60 cows cannot generate income. Fifteen years ago there were twelve of us in Gisey-la-Coudre. In 2022, there are only two of them. There were 400 goals, now it should be from 180 to 160. Is this what we want? »
In fact, national production has been declining since 2019 (24.2 billion liters). In 2015 it was 25.1 billion. In addition, the average age is high and will create an upgrade problem. “60% of dairy farmers are over 53 years old,” claims Laurent Duclos.
“Everywhere, even in Brittany, even in the English Channel, there is a department specializing in milk. To start working as a dairy farmer at 25, you have to be a bit of a suicide bomber! “, condemns Jacques Lamio.
Indeed there is Law Egalim II, a step forward, the object of all hopes. This is the fifth law that keeps added value in the hands of producers. “They voted for it, now it needs to be applied,” notes Laurent Duclos. But inflation is galloping faster than the legislator. “We are always behind schedule. We asked for 40 cents per liter, the cost price, today it would take 45 cents,” he regrets Jacques Lamio.
Metanizers for diversification
This list should not make us forget that there are opportunities for diversification. For example, biomethanation. These devices, which produce methane from cattle waste, are bolstering the industry and are popular during the energy crisis.
“The system really holds the road and allows for robotization,” concedes Jacques Lamio. Installation assistance is essential, but it is still a big investment and not all farms can use a methanizer. Consolidation may be one solution, but transporting slurry to a tanker is quite a complex logistics and not without opposition.
There is also robotics. Comfort, but not a miracle solution.
“Methanizer is an investment of at least 23,000 euros per year for ten years. However, in the current highly uncertain environment, we must think twice. »
There is a listening service dedicated to the agricultural world, “Agri’coute”, available 24 hours a day. In an emergency, you can contact a psychologist by phone or chat. 09 69 39 29 19.
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