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Tour 1 - Biodiversity in Cotentin marshes

The Cotentin marshes form an isthmus linking the peninsula from Cotentin to the mainland. They consist of a very attractive landscape with vast areas of wet grasslands which are flooded in winter and then, in spring, support a wide diversity of plants and animals, especially birds. Wet grasslands are recognized as valuable habitats, but they also provide many other ecological services. The bundle of services includes plant diversity, forage production and quality, and regulation services such as C storage.

Marshes constitute high value habitats for plants and animals and are particularly important breeding grounds for waders. The biodiversity of the marshes will be described, with a particular focus on ornithology. Water levels are one of the key factors of the territory and trade-offs are required to reconcile the expectations of stakeholders with environment objectives. Delegates will learn about water management which is achieved through hydraulic installations such as floating doors.

The Regional Natural Park of the Cotentin and Bessin Marshlands, responsible for the environmental protection in this area, will welcome delegates. The Park Managers will outline their mission and objectives in working with the livestock farmers in the area, and also with the many other stakeholders.

A farmer will describe his activities and how he manages his wetlands, and discuss the difficulties and the advantages of working on wetlands.

Tour 2 - Organic dairy system

With almost 4% of total milk production, the share of organic milk is increasing in France. Normandy is one of the regions where the conversion to organic is increasing. Two farms will be visited as part of this tour, as well as a visit to a dairy processor accompanied by some cheese tasting which will conclude the tour.

Managing a 230 ha mixed crop-livestock system, the Guilbert brothers (GAEC Guilbert) chose to diversify their crops, their types of forages and their harvest methods in order to achieve near self-sufficiency on their farm. The 150 cows produce 800,000 litres of organic milk annually. Four work units are in operation on the farm which also includes an experimental platform, a drying shed and a biogas production unit.

Francois Roulland and Arnault Harel manage a dairy farm (EARL du Bois d’Arry) with 140 dairy cows on a total agricultural area of 160 ha and 140 ha of grassland. Their production of organic milk is approximately 750,000 litres per year. The transition from a conventional forage system based on cereals and maize silage to organic production was made by maximising grass production and grazing. The design of their grazing area, the use of multi-species grasslands, the quality of the forage harvested and an effective grazing management plan are key ingredients to their success.

Fromagerie Gillot produces two PDO cheeses: Camembert and Pont L'Eveque. Fromagerie Guillot develops authentic, quality products that preserve the aromatic richness of raw milk. It contributes to the preservation of French gastronomic heritage in France and abroad.

Tour 3 - Dairy system and PDO products

This tour n°3 visits the Pays d'Auge, a famous region in Normandy, a region of PDO cheeses. Through visiting two dairy farms, delegates will discover how farmers practice the PDO specifications on a daily basis. The first farm (GAEC du Manoir de Grandouet) has an organic farming system with different ways of using grassland including grazing, indoor feeding with fresh grass, outdoor dried hay and barn dried hay. The farm has 110 Normande and crossbreed cows, producing 500,000 kg of milk annually. The farm area is 148 ha, with 12 ha of maize grain and 136 ha of grasslands. The farm also has a high-stem apple orchard (25 ha) and produces apple juice, cider, and Pommeau and Calvados alcohol (also as PDO products).

The second farm (EARL de la Trabotière) is more common of Normandy with a forage system combining maize and grass silage in winter, grazing on limited access area in summer and a milking robot with two stalls. On this farm, 90 Normande cows graze on just 25 ha of sown grassland. The farm crops are mainly maize for silage (30 ha) and cereals as wheat (20 ha), barley (7 ha) and rapeseed (17 ha).

This tour will conclude with a visit to the dairy processor Fromagerie Graindorge and be accompanied by some cheese tasting.

Tour 4 -  Beef and beef from dairy in Normandy

Three beef producing farms will be visited on this tour. Stéphane and Franck Labarrière breed 120 Charolais suckler cows in the Dives marshes near Cabourg. The feed for the whole herd is based on grass grazed and harvested throughout the year. The production system allows access to local markets to sell meat produced on the farm.

Beef from dairy is one of the production systems on the second farm. Denys Lerévérend raises Normande breed dairy cows to produce PDO milk. While the heifers have a traditional outlet (replacement or in-calf sale), the males are raised as traditional grass-fed cattle. A few months ago, the Normande selection organisation signed a contract with a major French distributor to create an outlet with better meat value linked to the grass-fed system.

In the third farm, Stéphane and David Debons own 55 Blonde d'Aquitaine cows and 75 Holstein dairy cows. They farm 130 ha of crops and 88 ha of permanent grassland. Crops and livestock are complementary because forage (maize, fodder beet, alfalfa and wheat), straw and concentrates are produced to feed the cattle herd and obtain self-sufficiency, while the effluents are distributed over the crop areas. Some of the meat produced on the farm is sold directly from the farm in local and short distance markets.

Tour 5 - Normandy, land of horse breeding

Normandy is the primary French region for horse breeding. Many breeders take advantage of the rich grasslands to raise champion racehorses (Trotteur- Français and Pur-Sang) or sport horses (mainly Selle Français). This tour offers the opportunity to visit two horse farms and the IFCE training centre and technical platform.

The Ecurie des Monceaux, based in the Pays d’Auge, over 340 ha, offers an environment conducive to thoroughbred breeding. Since 2010, Ecurie des Monceaux has bred 43 stakes winners. With 200 horses, the breeding program is geared towards horses breeding out as much as possible. Great attention is paid to pasture management using a mixed rotational grazing system with cattle.

The 2nd horse farm, called Haras des M, is a magnificent farm specialised in the production of high quality show jumping horses. Throughout the year, frozen semen production, insemination and embryo transplant activities are carried out. Pastures are managed using a rotational grazing system, providing high quality forage for the young livestock during the grazing season. Mixed grazing with cattle improves pasture quality and farm economic efficiency.

La Jumenterie du Pin, located nearby the famous Haras du Pin is dedicated to professional training in horse breeding and reproduction. It is now a technical platform dedicated to R&D projects in horse reproduction, breeding, as well as horse health and agroecology. Some of the current R&D projects will be presented, such as the management of parasitism in mixed grazing, the evaluation of environmental footprint and the management of manure on pastures.