Despite our contribution with Lambo, his psychotic mother and his auntie, the number of sheep in Limousin is falling as a whole. In 2011 there were 360,000 sheep shared between 1,700 farms. Ten years previously there were more than 500,000 sheep and 2,400 farmers. That’s quite a drop, despite new European measures to help sheep farmers. One of these is a subsidy of €21 per sheep, but food prices have gone up, as have all fuel costs, and these have eaten into what was meant to give farmers a real boost.
But while giving with one hand, the government is taking with the other in the form of tighter controls regarding the traceability of the meat from their livestock, which are giving farmers onerous amounts of paperwork and often resulting in fines when it’s not being done properly. Truly French.
The main problem is that sheep farmers who retire aren’t being replaced, even though there’s more money to make from sheep than beef at the moment. French mutton is in demand since New Zealand lamb has been adversely affected by the drought there. Also, setting up with sheep calls for less investment than with dairying or cattle. But of course the Schmallenberg virus hasn’t helped either. If pregnant ewes contract this insect-borne virus, the resulting lamb can be deformed or born dead. We were worried about this when we were waiting for our lambs this spring.
So it’s not a particularly good time for sheep or sheep farmers in this part of France at the moment and there won’t be any revisions to the official agrictultural subsidy approach in the form of PAC (Politique agricole commune) until 2013. You can’t help wondering how many more sheep will be gone by then?
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