Cows, pigs and sheep settle “in the capital” on the eve of the Agricultural Show
Breeder Michel Van Simmertier arrives on February 24, 2023, with his cow Ovalie, at the Agricultural Show which opens Saturday at Porte de Versailles (AFP / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)
Just arrived “in the capital”, calves, sheep and pigs are being pampered, while workers give the last hammer blows: the Porte de Versailles is in turmoil on the eve of the Agricultural Show, which hosted Friday its star, the cow Ovalie.
It is time for the final preparations before these nine days which will honor the “France farm” in Paris, and after a long night journey for the breeders, hall 1, which welcomes their animals, comes alive at morning thread.
In overalls, a beret sometimes screwed on the head, they slalom between construction machinery and carts loaded with straw, pulling behind them massive cows or trying to grab a coffee on the fly.
Breeder Michel Van Simmertier on February 24, 2023, with his cow Ovalie, at the Agricultural Show which opens to the public on Saturday at Porte de Versailles (AFP / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)
With her mahogany dress, her lyre-shaped horns, and her curly-haired binoculars, the most anticipated of them, Ovalie, arrived at dawn. Docile and photogenic, she took up residence after crossing the hall on the red carpet, under the eyes of the cameras.
The “stress of transport, of arrival” disappeared when Michel Van Simmertier, his breeder, saw the star with the broad forehead and the emblematic horns in large on the Parisian posters. “It’s a great pride,” he said, moved.
The organizers wanted to highlight the pair of breeders he forms with Marine Van Simmertier. Installed five years ago outside the family framework, they are proof “that we can succeed even if we are not from the agricultural world”, underlines the president of the show, Jean-Luc Poulain.
A cow at the Paris Agricultural Show on February 24, 2023, the day before it opens to the public. (AFP/STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)
It is, for him and his teams, “the culmination of a year of work”, which will put agriculture “in the spotlight” with more than 4,000 animals, mountains of local products and debates on the future of the sector.
Serge Esteveny, 58, gazes over his Gascon cows from the Pyrenees raised in the Tarn. Silver coats and black eyes, they are tired of travel, more accustomed to the harsh mountain climate than to the effervescence of “the capital”.
Accustomed to the event, he came to represent his land and “show that agriculture is still standing, even if it suffers from the difficult climate and economic conditions”.
– “Passionate job” –
Breeders discuss behind cows at the Paris Agricultural Show on February 24, 2023, the day before it opens to the public (AFP / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)
Despite being better paid than before, herders are bearing the full brunt of the impacts of climate change, which is scorching the grasslands of the prairies, and soaring production costs, from animal feed to fuel.
For lack of buyers, many of them are also considering throwing in the towel. “Breeding is a passion job, but with constraints”, and a need to be “365 days a year near his animals”, he recognizes.
A breeder arrives with a cow at the Paris Agricultural Show on February 24, 2023, the day before it opens to the public (AFP/STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)
For breeding to survive in France, “we need young enthusiasts, and for them to be able to live” from this profession, will defend Serge during the show.
A few meters further, Eugénie Chauvet, 19, brings her meal to a robust pig of the Cul noir Limousin breed, lying in her enclosure. In BTS at the agricultural school of Ahun, in the Creuse, she came to lend a hand to the Ligeral, an association which works to safeguard local French breeds of pigs.
A breeder feeds cows at the Paris Agricultural Show on February 24, 2023, the day before it opens to the public (AFP/STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)
The young girl, who wishes to become a farm worker or perhaps take over a dairy farm with her brothers, will spend the week “a bit in camping mode” with her comrades, and will help the breeders to “move, clean, and feed the animals” .
She is excited at the idea of ”discovering everything” at the show, and “showing people what the agricultural community really is, all the beautiful things that we experience and that they cannot see”.
From the inauguration on Saturday, she will also ensure the well-being of these pigs that visitors, who numbered 500,000 last year, will come to admire – and perhaps President Emmanuel Macron, who will spend the day at Porte de Versailles.
© 2023 AFP
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