France is in much need of rain. Record-breaking temperatures this summer, off the back of a dry winter and spring, is wreaking havoc across the natural landscape.
The country’s longest river, the Loire, can reportedly be crossed by foot in some places. In the southwest, wildfires continue to blaze.
Drought is bad news for the agricultural sector, and the latest victim is the cheese producing sector in France’s Auvergne region. Last Friday, 12 August, production of AOP Salers cheese was suspended due to a lack of pasture for cows.
A diet of minimum 75% pasture grass
Salers is a semi-hard cheese originating from the Cantal mountains of central France. Its name comes from the town of Salers, and its milk, from Salers cows.
The cheese was awarded appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) status in 1979. AOP Salers specifications require that the cheese be produced on the farm from 100% raw cow’s milk.
Cows must be fed on at least 75% pasture grass. It is this criterion in particular that farmers are struggling to meet.
According to France Bleu, the meadows have dried up or burned. “There is nothing left to eat at home. The ground is so dry, hard, that in places it looks like ashes. It’s dust,” explained Laurent Roux, breeder at Gaec de la Calsade in Badailhac to the media network.
“We have always experienced period of drought in the summer, but this is very, very hard. We didn’t have a snowflake or a drop of water in January.”
Roux told France Bleu his cows have not grazed since 25 June.
Sector prepares for losses
AOP Salers is made up of 4,500 dairy cows which produce more than 12mL of milk per year. All up, around 1,200 tonnes of cheese are produced by 78 producers annually.
The AOP, headed up by Laurent Lours, is predicting significant financial losses for the sector, telling France Bleu Salers milk is traditionally valued at around €900 per 1,000L. “As soon as we can no longer produce, we lose €200-300 per 1,000L. It is very complicated given the context, with inflation and rising costs.”
Amending the AOP specifications to better suit dry weather, however, is not currently a consideration.
“Salers is a seasonal cheese, made with the season of grass. It is one of the pillars of its identify,” explained Lours.
“With more hay, the [cheese] would be whiter, we would have fewer aromas. Our product still has a certain notoriety among consumers, we don’t want to break it.”