Detected in a farm in Aignan on Christmas Day, a case of bird flu was confirmed on Monday evening in Gers. The presence of a hatchery within a 3 km radius is a problem for reproduction and therefore for breeders of ducks ready to force feed, such as the Pérès family in Saint-Michel. His testimony raises fears of new difficulties for the profession in 2023.
“We were 300 to 400 producers of agricultural preserves and artisans 40 years ago, in Gers. Now we are almost 50 farmers processing duck. And with the bird flu that has just hit Aignan…”.
REPORT. Thousands of breeding ducks slaughtered in Aignan after discovery of an outbreak of bird flu
Sigh on the faces of Philippe, Pierre and Marie-Laure, a few hours before the year-end meal offered by the Pérès family to the 20 employees of the Patte-d’Oie farm in Saint-Michel near Miélan.
News of a case of bird flu 52 km away had been brewing since Christmas Day. It was confirmed on Monday evening. A heavy blow to the family farm, home to four generations of Pérès. Especially since one of the three largest hatcheries in the south-west is adjacent to the affected farm in Aignan. Maxime, son of Pierre, wants to be a philosopher. “It’s like Covid. No matter how much you protect yourself, you’re going to catch it at some point. We can’t control everything.”
Equipped with airlocks, easily washable buildings and even a straw blower paid for €50,000 (including accessories) this year to avoid having to enter the buildings with the tractor, the Pérès family has made all the recommended investments to limit the risk of the spread of bird flu since it itself was hit, winter 2015-2016. But it remains dependent on duckling producers to keep up with the number of 45,000 ducks ready for force-feeding a year. So this year she was only able to make 18,000 because of previous epizootics. And it won’t get any better in 2023.
The price of ducklings bought in 1 day has doubled in 18 months
“We receive the ducklings 1 day old and we breed them for 90 days. But once the producers are eliminated, it takes 14 months to recreate the sector, explains Philippe. This year it was already difficult to find them with the breeding of breeders very affected in Deux -Sèvres and Vendée. Ducklings that were worth less than €2 per capita a year and a half ago, we had to pay up to €4 to get them. So much so that ducks were ready to hatch that we sold for 13 €.50 18 months ago, we had to put it at €18 to achieve the same margin. But now, with the slaughter around Aignan, it is getting worse. If the breeders are eliminated, we will not have animals 9 to 10 months backwards. 2023 promises to be very tough.”
In the buildings, there are still ducks ready for force-feeding, which could rest on the farm’s 30 ha shaded track, before the containment order in mid-November. With the other two batches of ducklings since returning home, the Perez family should have ducks ready to force-feed to the ten breeders working with them until late February or early March. But after?
For now, there is no question of making the soup with a grimace. Pierre did not forget that he was an excellent cook until he teamed up with his twin brother and sister. The last customers in the store are gone, it’s time to sit down to eat.
But Philippe is worried, especially since the energy bill will quadruple by 2023. Like his brother, he tends to see the glass as half full. Then, at the sight of the hearty slice of home-made foie gras spread generously on the plates, he thinks with pride of the work done. Nearly 7,000 trees, including many fruit trees, have been planted on the farm since 1991 to trap nitrates and make RCW, which provides a warm blanket for ducks in winter. Trees that also provide shade and food for the ducks, saving 1 to 4 kg of food per duck. inhabitant depending on the season. There is also the methanizer, which has saved 20 tons of gas per year since 2021 thanks to the heat produced by cogeneration.
Hold on and hope until the self-consumption solar panels – which are being installed – complete the system on this resolutely environmentally responsible farm, that’s all the Pérès family can do.