01 February 2004
31 December 2007

Gestion du milieu naturel et de l'espace rural

Natural and rural space management


Society expectation towards agricultural sector becomes wider and wider. If its first role remains foodstuff production, it could not be reached  without taking into account other dimensions such as the animal welfare or the environment (water quality, biodiversity, …) So the improvement of the externalities connected to production activity  could be the support of a better valorisation of the production I the context of a differentiate quality food chain.

Aside from foodstuff production, some news activities, mainly linked to services to the society, are proposed to farmers. These new functions must allow a multifunctional development of the territory, more especially in the zone under study; including the Luxembourg province (Belgium), the Luxembourg and the Department of the Meuse, Moselle and Meurthe and Moselle in France;  characterised by a patchwork of centres with a dense population and of rural areas.


After a diagnosis phase, Farming Systems Section has involved itself in the support of three actions(www.inst-elevage.asso.fr/html26). The first one, from which the results will be developed hereafter, is located in the Jurassic Area, between Luxembourg, Belgian Ardennes an French Lorraine. This area is characterised  by particular soil and climatic conditions that, historically, had led to the development of extensive agricultural practices in comparison to the ones developed in Belgian Ardennes. As an example, in Virton area, more than 15 % of the UAS is converted to organic farming in comparison to less than 2 % in the whole Belgium. In the same direction, we can underlined the higher proportion of French Meat Cattle Breeds, in pure or in crossing, more rustic than Belgian Blue Breed. Such practices have led to the development of ecosystems characterised by their high level of biodiversity and, so to the integration of more than 28 % of this area in the NATURA 2000 framework. Ratio that, for grasslands, reach 50% in some of the communes taken into account.The aim of this action is to articulate such huge environmental constrain, limiting the evolution of the practices that could be developed in this area, in an economical opportunity through the co-construction, with all the actors involved in the management of this territory, of a differentiate cattle meat reflecting such agri-environmental stakes : “Steer from the Gaume’s Grasslands”. This action is held, on the field, by the CDR of Ansart and the Cuestas GAL, co-financed by the LEADER + program.     The second action aims to evaluate and to compare the tools developed to quantify the externalities and the environmental and socio-economical sustainability of the farming systems.

The last action focus on the characterisation of part-time and pluri-active farmers. This with a special attention for their professional project, for their practices and for their occurrence.

Results obtained

Phase 1 : To mobilise the actors around the project

The first activity aimed to allow, to the different actors concerned by this territory, from the farmer to the citizen-consumer, to consider the steer and its implications in terms of farming system and of meat product. This was the occasion to mobilise the know-how developed in France, at few kilometres from our Belgian-Blue frame of reference, in term of steer production and marketing.Always to mobilise the actors around the project, but this time on this territorial dimension, a workshop, focussing on the grassland diversity existing in this area, was organised with the breeder, the naturalist and the searchers. To do so, grasslands representative from this diversity, from the natural reserve, in marsh land, to the dry grassland on drained soil, were visited. Within each, the point of view of the breeder valorising the sward, of the naturalist dictating the management rules for some of them and of the agronomist have been collected to quantify their ‘Natural’, ‘Agronomical’ and ‘Landscape’ values.

Phase 2 : To explore, to grow rich with existing experiences

Following the identification, in collaboration with the Breeding Institute in France, of experiences aiming to articulate ‘beef production’ and ‘territory’, we have explored two of them : ‘the Breeder and the Bird’, on one side, and the ‘Maine of Anjou’, that is an Guaranteed Origin, in the other side.The analysis of these experiences highlighted the following points for the development of the project “Steer from the Gaume’s Grasslands”. (1) Even if we are in a context very close from the one found in the project ‘the Breeder and the Bird’, with the promotion of extensive practices in favour to biodiversity development in NATURA 2000 zones, we want, as in the ‘Maine of Anjou’ project, to translate these practices, performed at the farm level, into gustative differences. As in this Guaranteed Origin context, an important effort of pertinent territory definition was performed and we aim to perform a coherent approach on the whole farm.

Phase 3 : The project take shape

After a meeting, aiming to validate project objectives with the territory actors, its guiding principles have been drawn, in parallel, by two groups : one group with a mix of consumer-citizen-environmentalist and a group focused on the exploration of the alternatives existing on the production axis. In this last group, a typology of the production systems existing on this territory and an analysis of the technico-economical performances of different steer production schemes were performed.

Production systems typology

Eleven types have been identified on the basis of (1) the dairy activity, (2) the stocking rate and (3) the farm size.The development of steer production, based on the valorisation of the forage harvested in area with a high ecological value, can be problematic when :(1) farms are too large that to accept an additional work load. Nevertheless, once analysed with farmers, this constraint is not a real brake. Indeed, only a few number of animals will be concerned and steer is characterised by the simplicity of its production scheme.(2) the level of intensification of the systems taken into account is too high. These systems will extensify their practises only if they are constraint to do so by NATURA 2000 frame. This will lead to the emergence of systems with two levels of management : an intensive and an extensive ones, that will question the communication around and the credibility of the product.(3) the stocking rate is close from 1.4 BLU/ha of grassland, limit allowing to access to the corresponding agri-environmental premium. Indeed, even if these systems are in phase with project objectives, steers production will increase the stocking rate and limit the access to the above-mentioned premiums. The choice to valorise animal with a lower conformation, fitting  with a better potential to deposit intra-muscular fat and so to develop a particular savour, instead of a particular breed, will allow the integration of crossbreed, as meat * dairy breeds. This is an alternative to secure small dairy farms.

Economical performance of steers production

The economical performance of steer production was modelled on the basis of local technico-economical data while taking into account the performances allowed by the forage obtained in natural grasslands or in grasslands with a high ecological value. The benefit depends from the value of the calve after weaning and of the plus value that will be allowed by product differentiation.Nevertheless, for the breeders, such production scheme remains interesting as it allows the valorisation of animal with a lower conformation, that are under-evaluated in our conventional Belgian Blue frame of reference, while insuring a higher homogeneity of the product in comparison to cull cow production.

Moreover, the castration implies a full and irreversible implication of the farmer while a female chain could reflected more opportunistic behaviours.

Phase 4 : Production rules definition

Once the possible evolution ways identified, for the farmer, and the sensibility of the consumers-citizens highlighted; i.e. to translate in a product of quality (1) the ling to the Gaume area in terms of biodiversity, consumers and producers, (2) the environmental constraint translated in terms of mowing date and stocking rate to favour biodiversity and (3) the equity in term of market access, to be linked to farmer implication in favour to environment preservation, together with the maintenance of the different farmers models (conventional, extensive, pluri-active); the energy was focused on their codification in rules allowing the production of such a tasty meat linking, in a sustainable way, breeders, consumers and their territory.


Farming Systems Section :

* development of references and characterisation of the existing diversity in the ‘Steers from Gaume’s Grasslands’ project : grasslands and farming systems typologies, technico-economical modelling, meat tasting animation.

* participation to the comparison of the tools allowing farm sustainability and externalities quantification.

* characterisation and typology of pluri-active farmers.

* participation in the production rules definition.


P. Stassart – ULg – SEED (B).

H. Hanus et L. Roussel – CUESTAS (B) with the support of Leader+ program (CEE et RW).

R. Lioy – CONVIS (FHL-L).

B. Morhain – Institut de L’élevage (F).

N. Lebrun – Chambre d’Agriculture de Meurthe et Moselle (F).

D. Stragier - Chambre d’Agriculture de Moselle (F).

P. Peeters – SPIGVA (B).

CRAW off coordinator

B. Morhain

Institut de l’Elevage, Nancy (F),




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