17 July 2017

Copa and Cogeca organized a press trip this month on livestock farmer Daniel Coulonval holding where a renewable energy plant has been developed on the farm to produce electricity for 350 households using manure from the cattle.

Mr Coulonval has a livestock farm with 400 animals, 200 dairy cows and 200 beef cattle, Belgian blanc bleu for beef and Holstein red and black. And he grows a mixture of cereals and sugar beet on his farm to feed the animals. But he warned of the many challenges facing livestock producers, especially the market volatility and poor farm incomes which are 40% of average earnings. “Less and less young people are entering the sector”, he warned. Moreover, farmers are suffering increasingly from climate change and weather events. He is currently affected by drought on the farm and he is conserving water by using it just for the animals.

To stabilise his revenue and to maximise the potential of the farm, his on-farm diversification includes a new investment in a renewable energy plant using manure from the farm to generate biogas and electricity for 350 houses in the area. The investment cost as much as 1.7 million euros and was financed by a combination of loans from EU banks as well as from his own resources. But it will take 15 years to pay off before he sees any profits from it so his upcoming priorities focus on consolidating this investment.

The investment is also not only about stabilising our income, it is also about protecting the environment and meeting the objectives of COP21, explained Mr Coulonval. “It is a good example of the circular economy working”, said Mr Coulonval. He spoke of the many advantages of agriculture, not only for food and renewable energy, but also the social benefits and positive impact on growth and jobs, often where no other source of employment exists.

Other challenges are to make sure farmers get the right sort of training and education and to raise consumer awareness of the good job that farmers do and where their food comes from, he stressed.

He was nevertheless more optimistic about the future of the dairy sector now that the market has stabilized a lot since the crisis and he hopes that it will continue to do this. The visit also showed the importance of improving infrastructures and internet access in rural areas, as there was no broadband access in some parts making it impossible for farmers to take advantage of the latest technologies.

Source: Copa and Cogeca

Illustration Photo: dairy farm (Public Domain from Pixabay.com)

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