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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Beef production from suckling cow farms in defavourised zones : evolution and questions.

INRA Prod. Anim., 9 (4), 285-297.


INRA Laboratoire Economie de l’Elevage, Theix, 63122 St Genès Champanelle


The increase in the number of suckling cows in France occurs in part in arable regions where milk production or cash crops are involved. In 1995, however, close to 60 % of all suckling cows were still found in defavourised or mountainous zones where their contribution is essential as they use about 70 % of the fodder area.

The structures and types of production involved in suckling cow farms have undergone radical changes, which have accelerated since the CAP reform of 1993.

This study presents recent developments in the structures and techniques involved as observed in a sample of Charolais farms with good available production structures, that have been followed for about 15 years and which are located in the central part of France. Many important issues face farmers today, both individually and collectively. These include : the improved adaptation of the types and characteristics of the animals produced, and the management of the genetic improvements as they relate to new marketing criteria, certain aspects of these may be ignored by the reform ; negotiating the delicate balance between the economic necessity of continuous development in terms of surface area and herd size of farms with the need to insure the future of local production through encouraging the installation of sufficient numbers of young farmers particularly as these areas are already underpopulated ; meeting the necessary capital requirements of a production system characterized by a capital/return ratio that is particularly high, all of which makes the transfer of the farms difficult. In addition, the crisis over BSE underlines the question of the quantitative and qualitative equilibrium between beef production and decreasing levels of consumption. This equilibrium in the past made good use of the meat from retired dairy cows. How should beef (or sheep) herds be sustained economically ? They have been considered indispensable to the maintenance of pasture areas, particularly in defavourised and mountainous areas.

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