Epoisses - Développement durable-en
The Époisses sector has been following a sustainable development policy that affects social, economic and environmental issues for several years and which is shared by milk producers and cheese makers alike.
A Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) on dairy production in Époisses was performed in 2012 by the French Breeders’ Institute with financial support form ADEME (French Energy and Environmental Affairs Agency) and the Regional Council of Burgundy.
The results indicated:
- A moderate net carbon footprint with good carbon storage because of the pastures, forest edges and hedges.
- A small eutrophication potential connected to the good fertilisation practices.
- Water losses that are much lower than the “standard” values.
- A high contribution to the maintenance of the biodiversity.
Several means of improvement were identified and launched. Just to name a few:
- Reducing direct energy consumption (electricity, fuel): the dairy farms are given assistance with energy diagnostics in order to be equipped with material such as recovered calorie exchangers on milk tanks and black panels for the production of hot water. To date (October 2013), 40% of all breeders had completed the diagnostics and 25% were equipped with recovered calorie exchangers, saving the sector nearly 60 MWh per year.
- Better use of local plant proteins: a partnership with a dehydration cooperative (“wood” energy) makes it possible to offer breeders rolls and bundles of alfalfa produced in the Protected Designation of Origin area and thus reduce the transport of products over long distances in addition to reinforcing food self-sufficiency.
In 2013, it will the processors' turn to conduct Lifecycle Assessments with ADEME financing and then implement the coordinated actions for improvement.
The position of the grass in the parcel plans on these dairy farms is significant with an average primary forage surface of 105 hectares, 80% of which is occupied by grass surfaces and 61% natural pastures. This set represents 3,000 herctares of natural pastures, distributed throughout the Northern Auxois, the East Châtillonnais and the South of the Langres Plateau (Côte-d’Or and Haute-Marne).
One study conducted in 2012 on the pastures identified 135 plant species with an average of 34 species per graze or cut plot and even up to 60 species.
This wealth is evidence of the great mastery of agricultural practices by the breeders who are able to balance environmental benefits with production services. These same breeders have been able to conserve a good part of the hedges surrounding the lots which represent a linear average of 77 metres per hectare of pasture land. These hedges assist with the animals’ wellbeing during grazing periods as they provide shade and a cool sport for the animals. They are also excellent vectors for the maintenance of the plant and animal biodiversity.
Actions are now underway in conjunction with the Burgundy Regional Agricultural Chamber to build quick prairie diagnostics tools for the technicians. These tools will improve the information provided to breeders who are concerned about how to get the most out of the grass, reinforce their use and control the impacts.
On a social level and through the Côte-d’Or Agricultural Chamber substitution service, the breeders will soon benefit from a dedicated moderately priced substitution service with personnel who have been trained on the Protected Designation of Origin specifications and sanitary requirements.
All of the cheese factories have implemented programmes aimed at reducing the hard labour involved with certain production events: turning the moulds, washing the cheese, etc.
Economically, contracts linking the cheese factories and milk producers provide for specific Protected Designation of Origin milk valorisation conditions and the perreniality of the milk production. Economic indicators are offered by the Association for the Defence of Époisses in order to assist with discussions on milk prices.