CAFRE Foundation Degree students get a flavour of French farming and food

The Foundation Degree in Agriculture and Technology course at CAFRE’s Greenmount Campus now incorporates a European Study Tour for final year students. The focus of the 2017 Study Tour was Europe’s largest livestock show, the Sommet de l’Elevage, which is held each October near the town of Clermont Ferrand in the Massif Central, the largest cattle breeding region in Europe.

Relaxing in the French sunshine after an interesting visit to a Montbeliarde dairy farm in the Massif Central as part of their European Study Tour: Foundation Degree students Matthew Mulholland and Samuel Hunter (standing) with Manus Rogan, Laura Robinson, Jonny Ewing and Janice Caldwell.

As international visitors the Foundation Degree students were given free entry to the show and the opportunity to participate in a wide range of farm and industry visits showcasing the French agricultural industry. International visitors were also treated to an impressive evening presentation of French dairy and beef cattle with English translation in the main arena. French showmanship through the use of lighting, high definition video screens, and pop music meant that the event more closely resembled a rock concert than a livestock show!

The auction of Limousin cattle at the Sommet de l’Elevage with buyers sitting in the arena and both the cattle and the bids displayed on video screens.

In the afternoons students had the choice of visiting dairy, beef, sheep and goat farms, research facilities, or a beef collection centre. Dairy visits included a 75 cow Montbeliarde dairy herd supporting three full time workers where all milk went into production of the local speciality cheese Fourme d’Ambert, and milk price was 30 pence per litre. Farm buildings were constructed with wooden rather than metal beams and students were bemused when the farmer’s wife told them that the ducks wandering around the yard and the rabbits spotted in cages were destined for the family’s table.

On the second evening of the Sommet de l’Elevage show the final of the judging of 2017’s featured breed, the Limousin, took place. Family groups of up to 8 mature males and females plus calves were presented for judging. This was followed by an auction of Limousins which saw lots going to Portuguese, Spanish, UK and Italian purchasers.

The final year Foundation Degree in Agriculture and Technology students prepare to leave their gite and head home after a busy first ever European Study Tour to France’s largest livestock show, accompanied by lecturers David Alexander and Wilbert Steen and Course Manager Dr Kate Semple.

Students also spent time going around the show itself and with a total of 1,300 cattle, 400 sheep and 1500 exhibitors including numerous tractor and machinery manufacturers there was plenty to see and learn about. Students noted how almost every exhibitor offered hospitality comprising local cheeses, salamis and other products to showcase the food of the region. Even the fast food outlets at the show offered local specialities such as truffade and hearty local sausages with cabbage alongside the more conventional burgers and French fries.

When asked for their overall feedback on the trip the students commented that the show was excellent, the international events and farm visits were varied and interesting and the scale of the machinery exhibits very impressive.

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