Placed on the cob, two dozen dairy cows on either side of the parlor are preparing to release about twenty liters of milk each for the second and final time of the day.
Raised, the cattle’s feet reach eye level. Patricia Aumonier, partner of this family business for five generations, dominates the gesture and the response. Each teat is cleaned “with detergent soap to clean the dirt”, she explains before placing a milking bunch there, which mimics the milking gesture.
On this farm “where there was always a member of the family to manage it and the cows”, Benoît Gavelle, 37, joined his two parents and his aunt, Laurence Aumonier, in 2018 after an “outdoor” course, in an agricultural bank.
He is the fourth partner in the operation, but in the coming years the other three will be of retirement age. Benoît Gavelle is part – at least for now – of the last generation of potential buyers…
Today, half of dairy farmers in France are over 50, and according to Institut de l’Élevage projections, France will have 56,300 farm managers in 2030, compared to 88,000 in 2019, down 36% .
To make up for the departure of his associates, Benoît Gavelle will have to call in staff, “but it’s quite tricky to find,” he says. “And then there is the question of the attractiveness of creative professions”, perceived as exhausting and unrewarding.
– Rethinking the model –
This is the problem they are trying to solve, a few kilometers to the south, in Lévis-Saint-Nom in Yvelines, a recently opened pilot farm.
To attract young people to agriculture, it is testing a new model so that farmers no longer have to work seven days a week, so they are no longer poor, and to improve animal welfare by improving environmental impact – all from one time.
Behind the €1.4 million Godets dairy project is the Hectar school, founded by Audrey Borolleau, former agricultural advisor to Emmanuel Macron, and Xavier Niel, but also the Danone ecosystem fund.
“The idea of the Godets cheese factory is to provide newcomers with instructions for using an economically safe facility that allows for a balance of life, and this is perhaps what we need to document the most today”, underlines Audrey Bouroleau.
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, rather than one in four working weekends.
The cows, equipped with a connected collar to monitor their health, are grazed throughout the year, summer and winter, following a system of “dynamic rotational grazing”, where the herd only has access to a plot of land. allowing quiescent areas to regenerate without interference.
The aim is to produce 200,000 liters of organic milk a year, processed on site to make yogurts and cheeses.
“It is something that opens new paths and is interesting”, but not “to feed the planet”, says Emmanuel Vasseneix, vice president of Syndilait, which brings together French manufacturers of milk for consumption, clearly questioning the adaptation of this model to industrial use. .
The model is not applicable everywhere, “each farm and each context is different,” says Yann-Gaël Rio of Danone. The documentation will allow “to reproduce elements in other farms” to adapt “to the requirement of social and environmental performance much higher than twenty years ago”, he continues.