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Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Factors relating to the economic success of extensive sheep farms in Montmorillonnais

INRA Prod. Anim., 10(5), 349-362.


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

2 INRA Départements SAD et ENA, Laboratoire Adaptation des Herbivores aux Milieux, Theix 63122 St Genès Champanelle
3 INRA Station d’Amélioration des Plantes Fourragères 86600 Lusignan


The expansion of the European Union Common Market Organization to include Great Britain and Ireland has made intensification of French sheep production difficult. This situation is aggravated by the PAC reform which supports systems that are less intensive.

This study demonstrates the special character of extensive farms located in the midst of a group of large meat sheep farms in Montmorillonnais (an unfavourised zone south of Vienne, France). Characteristic production systems are found in this region, and the type of farming system ranges from extensive (with a stocking rate of less than 0.85 LU/ha PFS) to intensive (1.40 LU/ha PFS). There are large differences between the ways the systems function, even between the various extensive systems. Two sub-groups can be distinguished among these latter. The first include extremely autonomous extensive specialists and the second are extremely extensive systems with crops. Some intensive farmers make a decent net income as do some graziers and specialized extensive farmers. The three essential factors are the margin per ewe, the work productivity and the infrastructure costs. On extensive farms, the best results are found for a moderate numerical productivity (1.15-1.30 lamb per ewe), which make maximal use of grazing. The extent to which grazing is used can be measured by the farm’s degree of forage autonomy and the minimal amount of input required. On farms using this kind of system, lambing occurs preferentially at the end of winter (December to April) so that the lambs can be sold early and the animals can spend more time in pasture, thereby reducing the amount of hay needing to be harvested. In general, the land area required is greater than that required in intensive farming. However, some extensive farms with small usable agricultural areas can obtain good results if they have a high degree of forage autonomy and if their infrastructure costs are limited.

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