“Economic and environmental performance go hand in hand”

You have managed to gain more and less greenhouse gases. How do you explain this double performance?

Lucie Morin, head of the Maison Blanche experimental station in Normandy. © E. Bignon

Lucie Morin – “We killed two birds with one stone because many levers limiting greenhouse gas emissions also generate income. Not only do solutions exist, but they are also often revenue-generating. It’s good news ! »

How did you meet this challenge?

LM- “We have moved to a agro-ecological system allowing to produce more and better, by valuing the natural resources available on our territory. We have defined a trajectory and clear objectives to achieve a coherent and efficient polyculture-livestock system at the economic and environmental levels. With the same resources, the volume delivered increased by 25% between 2018 and 2021 thanks to an increase in productivity per cow of 1,000 litres. This had a positive impact on revenue by also helping to dilute expenses. But the improvement in EBE turns out to be multifactorial and is not limited to these two parameters alone. This vision would be too simplistic and would not reflect our action. »

In concrete terms, what were the main levers activated?

LM- “We first worked on fodder and more particularly on the complementarity between grass and corn. Long opposed to each other in previous experiments, this duo has become the basis of our system. Corn, in different forms, is now present all year round to boost energy intake. In winter, half the basic ration consists of grass and corn silage. And on pasture, corn on the cob densifies the ration. Our efforts on the quality and digestibility of the grass have also paid offthanks to all the work carried out on the renovation of the meadows, their integration in the rotation, the fertilization and the harvest…
Another relevant weight lever optimization of animal numbers. We are limiting the number of heifers raised and we have reduced the age at calving to 28.4 months (against 34 months on average in the Norman breed). In addition, our breeding in flocks, with four calving periods per year, smooths the number of cows treated over the year and limits unproductive times. This strategy was advocated for an individualization of the distribution of the concentrate, with the purchase of a second-hand DAC. At the trough, the ration is balanced with rapeseed cake and/or self-produced wheat. We strive to distribute the right concentrate at the right time based on the prices of interest. »

You insist on the optimum to be found…

LM- ” Yes, it’s all about balance and consistency. Since the implementation of the system, we seek to optimize it to make it more and more efficient. In 2021, our economic and environmental results deteriorated further, but less than they could have. We tended to push the concentrate too hard. Its effectiveness reduced to the liter of corrected milk has deteriorated. Overall, the carbon footprint is a good criterion for optimizing systems. If it increases, it is because technical efficiency is lacking somewhere. »

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