In Southern Finistere (France), a dairy farmer has found a way to live a happy life while giving a job to his wife, improving his life conditions and, more importantly, keeping producing milk.
Right now, they have 80 dairy (100% crossbred) cows producing around 240 000 liters of milk per year sold as organic milk since their cows only eat grass all year. Using a 5-way crossbreeding and thanks to the 80 ha of temporary and permanent grassland and forest they have to feed the cows, they are able to get a feed cost as low as 26€/1000L. At last, they only milk the cows once a day and close the milking parlour two months every year since the cows calve within 5 to 6 weeks during early spring.
Multiple factors explain why the system works so well. First of all, the farmer has encircled himself with people who help him improve his system:
- He is part of a 25-farmers group where at least two of them are also innovative and from whom he has learnt a lot to improve his system
- He is also part of a famers union in which they collectively buy the machineries they need in order to share the expenses, which works quite well
- He has chosen good advisors from the dairy controller, the Chamber of agriculture and from the accounting company who help him drive his farm through the changes.
He also has good knowledge and great will to improve his practices in order to keep the farm charges low. Finally, he has chosen a promising market since organic milk has only been increasing for the moment.
The system has only two weaknesses: the valorization of the calves and the fragility of the workforce. It is indeed hard to get a satisfying price for the jersey calves even if, for now, they sell them in crate, directly to consumers. In case he or his wife encounter a health problem and are not able to work overnight they might find themselves in a difficult situation.
At last, they feel threaten by the climate change which increases variability of the weather and ask them and their system to be even more adaptable.