Friday, 12 August 2016

Painted Sheep


Ewes painted in the Tour de France jersey colours.

Consumption of lamb is going down and the price of lamb meat is going down, dropping nearly a euro per kilo this year according to the national ovine federation. Lamb producers are worried, so some of them took the opportunity to raise the profile of the sector at the Tour de France this year in Saint Savin. We visited a pen full of somewhat disgruntled ewes who had been painted in the colours of the cyclists jerseys (and rather curiously, crutched in a heart-shaped pattern...)

The sheep pen in the landscape at Saint Savin.

Visiting the pen also gained us a couple of reusable shopping bags proclaiming us to be supporters of geographically protected Poitou-Charentes lamb. Sadly there was no barbecued lamb on offer.

'At our place, our ewes make the countryside that you love.'

Pasture, or prairie, as it is generally referred to in lowland France, is one of the fastest disappearing habitats in the country. Sheep farmers point out that in the mountains sheep grazing can help prevent avalanches and wild fires.  In the lowlands of the south-west, they point out that pasture helps control and mitigate flooding. Sheep pasture uses few fertilizers and pesticides, and the system of fields and hedges traditionally used to raise lamb here prevents erosion and filters out excess nitrates, phosphates and herbicides. The sheep farmers are of course too polite to say 'as opposed to arable farming methods', but that is what they mean. I of course am too polite to mention sheep dip.

(We realise we haven't yet blogged about out day at the Tour de France this year. It may still happen...)

2 comments:

  1. Having grown up on a mixed farm, beef, sheep and arable, I find it terribly sad that small fields are disappearing, hedges are being removed, to make way for giant acreages which are easily worked.

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    1. Coming from a similar background, I agree. On a more practical level too, the change in agricultural practices is a big mistake long term. I would say that intensive arable farming is the single biggest global environmental problem. Improve arable farming practices and the knock on effects will be considerable and widespread.

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