For the last time, Thursday, December 31, a truck came to collect milk at the so-called “thousand cows” farm. The farm located in Drucat (Somme) announced, on December 4, the end of its dairy activity. However, it continues to cultivate potatoes, beets, flax and wheat on the 1,000 hectares it operates.
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Launched in 2014, the farm of a thousand cows has become the symbol of intensive breeding. ” We are disappointed to have to stop the activity, but we are proud to have opened this way in France Says the spokesperson for the operation. The 880 dairy cows as well as heifers and calves are still on site. One part will be bought by breeders and the other will go to the slaughterhouse.
A lack of profitability
From the outset, this project encountered obstacles. In 2014, the barn, designed to accommodate 1,000 cows, only obtained authorization for 500 due to a too low spreading capacity. A restriction that the operators will not respect. At the end of 2019, they are ordered to pay a fine and penalties by the courts because their herd exceeds 800 cows and therefore the authorized limit.
This limited workforce would, according to the owners, have limited the profitability of the operation. “If we could have had a thousand cows, our model was viable”, assures their spokesperson. This is not the only reason she gives to explain the end of the farm’s activity: “ We have learned that the Belgian Milcobel cooperative, which collects our milk, now wishes to refocus its activities in Belgium. »
Information denied by Belgian society. ” The farm itself has notified its termination », Says Eddy Leloup, director of Milks & Farms, in the magazine La France agricole. He adds that “ we have no intention of calling into question our commitment to French suppliers. »
Since 2015, Milcobel has been the sole client of the Thousand Cow Farm. That year, the French cooperative Agrial decided not to buy its milk any more because of the controversies over the operation.
The farm is the subject of much criticism, including in the agricultural world. If the FNSEA, the main agricultural union, and the Young Farmers have expressed their support, the Confédération paysanne has always opposed it. Nicolas Girod, his spokesperson, is delighted with this decision after “ an intense fight against an industrial model which, through the search for gigantic volumes, puts peasant farms in competition. »
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This model of intensive exploitation is also criticized for its supposedly negative impacts on the environment and animal welfare. Locally, the Novissen association has continued to protest against the project. Its president Francis Chastagner evokes “ relief after ten years of fighting. »
The question of the ecological impact of these operations is controversial. According to the agroeconomist Jean-Marie Séronie, “Contrary to popular belief, these large farms are not necessarily worse for the environment than small ones, on the contrary. “
Another criticism leveled against the milk produced by what opponents call “factory farms: it is of poorer quality.” There too, “We have the idea that a large farm will inevitably produce products of lower quality than a small farm, which is false », Continues the expert.
In recent years, many “giant farm” projects have sprung up all over France, each time giving rise to strong contestation from local residents and environmental associations.