Saturday, 10 October 2020

Cattle Grazing on the Marsh


The Charente-Maritime has extensive saltmarsh, traditionally used to graze cattle. Many of the beasts are a specialised breed called the Maraîchine.

Cattle grazing on the saltmarsh, Charente-Maritime. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

In the 1980s there were only about thirty Maraîchine cows left, and a group of enthusiasts set out to save both the breed and improve the management of the marshes. They dug around in 19th century records and found accounts of what the cattle should be like. 

They had been developed from a breed called the Parthenay but adapted to the marshes. The most noticeable differences are that the Maraîchines are larger and produce much more milk. They are robust and rather variable, unlike the very homogenous and finer Parthenay. Their colour can range from pale wheaten to reddish fawn, sometimes with black points (around eyes and hooves). The nose is surrounded by a pale band. The dewlap is often grey.

The breed was routinely crossed with others in the 1960s and 70s and over time the herds on the marshes had become more and more mixed. The breeders in the 1980s didn't have any purebred Maraîchines to work with, but they had 30 of these mixed breed cows which closely resembled the descriptions they had read in the 19th century agricultural texts.

Today there are 1300 Maraîchine cows. In the past they were truly multipurpose beasts, used for milk, meat and as draught animals. Nowadays they are raised for meat, and appreciated for their docility and being good no fuss calvers.


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Katie Zeller said...

We used to go biking in that area when we lived in the Vendee - I don't remember noticing the cows, tho lol

Susan said...

It's not industrial style farming, so there aren't really that many cows.

Carolyn said...

I tried to post this this morning and since it hasn't appeared yet, I may have done something wrong so I'll try again.

We once saw a photo exhibit of heritage breeds and the maraichine was the most striking animal, with a peaceful face (though with cattle it's hard to tell). I've been wanting to see them on the hoof ever since and I assumed we'd just come across a herd somewhere, but it hasn't happened. Now I learn from your post where to go to find some. Thank you, as usual.

Susan said...

I think they look just like the cow on the Kiri packets. I blogged about them before when we saw them in the Marais Poitevin.

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