We work towards a more sustainable agriculture

First what do we understand by the term « sustainability »?

In our case, sustainability covers 3 main features:

(1) An economic aspect: we aim to control production costs as much as possible;
(2) An agronomical aspect: we aim to maintain and, if possible, to enhance the quality of our soils as those are our main production factor;
(3) An environmental aspect: we seek to limit the environmental impact of farming (by reducing CO2 emissions, nitrogen losses and uses of chemical crop protection); also, we aim to maintain and/or enhance biodiversity on the farm.

In the farm’s everyday life, sustainability comes through …

First, through direct selling of our products. This is a guideline that we have chosen in 1981, at the time we took the farm over. Besides the farm shop, our products are also locally sold by the Coprosain cooperative. Through direct selling, we aim to provide a healthy food to local consumers and, in a broader sense, to actively participate to the sustainable development of our region.

Then, through constantly seeking to enhance self-sufficiency in animal feeding. Feeding self-sufficiency is defined as the ratio between the amount of animal feeding produced on the farm and the total amount of feeding consumed by animals of the farm.

Eventually, through transition to organic agriculture. The transition was initiated in 2014 and is effective since early 2017. Such transition is a natural step on the way towards a more sustainable agriculture.

How feeding self-sufficiency positively impacts sustainability

From an economic perspective, enhancing feeding self-sufficiency on the farm means decreasing inputs (animal feeding, among others) as much as possible. The economic consequence is a lower elasticity to price variations on the marker of commodities, leading then to a higher sustainability of the system.

From an agronomical perspective, enhancing feeding self-sufficiency results in allocating a greater field area for animal feeding. Thus, more pastures and fodder crops, but also more legume crops (e.g. alfalfa, clover, peas) to provide the protein source. Therefore, fields ground and biodiversity both benefit from more diverse and more complex crops rotation.

From an environmental perspective, targeting self-sufficiency means decreasing carbon emission generated by transportation of inputs, because we decrease the amount of inputs bought. Furthermore, increasing the area dedicated to permanent grazing results in an increased storage of carbon dioxide in the ground (as organic matter). In addition, fields are covered all year long (by grass or grass catch crops), what hampers erosion and nutrients losses, improves humus content and enhances microbial life in the ground. Also, we contribute to maintain biodiversity by planting new hedges and water places aside of existing ones. Such hedges are part of an ecological network spreading over the region, acting as a shelter for native wildlife.

Animal feedings are also better tracked when working with increased autonomy in the farm, resulting in improvement of the quality of the final product. For instance, we can guarantee that our final products are totally free of genetically modified organisms or other suspicious residues.

Eventually, feeding self-sufficiency allows us to have a better control on all steps along our meat production, with a positive impact on quality for consumers and an improved respect of our environment.

> More information (in French) in this document:

« Essais sur l’autonomie alimentaire en élevage limousin
et en engraissement de volailles fermières

Report on researches conducted on the farm in the frame of the
Reference and Experimentation Center (CRE) of the Walloon Region of Belgium
constituted within Coprosain cooperative.
PDF version available here