Breeder in Burgundy Franche Comté, Émilien Claudepierre is at the head of a dairy cow farm on 145 hectares. His priority in his work is serenity. Being a farmer and having time for oneself, one's family and one's hobbies is possible. With a well thought organization and a search for added value in his dairy production, Émilien succeeds!
Can you describe your background?
Originally from Lorraine, I did a scientific baccalaureate in an agricultural high school far from home: I wanted to see what agriculture was like in another region and I am passionate about livestock, which motivated my choice for Burgundy Franche Comté.
Then I continued with a BTS in animal production, before doing a certificate of specialization in dairy farming. I did my apprenticeship on the farm of my wife's parents whom I had met in high school. In 2011, I settled with her parents, replacing her uncle and aunt. In 2013, my wife joined us so we were two couples on the farm. Her parents retired in 2016 and we wanted to find partners who would set up with us, but we didn't find suitable candidates and we now have 2 employees.
Do you find that hiring an employee is easier than finding a partner?
These are not the same issues, but it's not easier. We were lucky enough, through word of mouth, to find two employees with whom things are going very well. When you are an employer, you have to manage a whole human resources aspect (departures, recruitment, management), but you remain master of your farm and you don't have to agree with partners on the orientations of the farm. An associate is supposed to be more reliable and to stay longer than an employee, but this is less and less the case: even with financial ties, young people do not necessarily stick around for long and we have to adapt to these new expectations.
In addition to your work as a farmer, maintaining a separation between your professional and personal life is important to you: what work management tools have you been able to put in place to maintain this separation?
It is sometimes complicated to separate the professional from the personal, especially when you have the house on the farm. But we really care about it and one of the main objectives of our farming system is to free up time for several things: first of all, time for the family, vacations because we like to travel, but also for our professional commitments outside the farm: I am vice-president of the Young Farmers of Burgundy-Franco-Comté, which takes up 2 to 3 days a week. My wife is involved in the board of directors of our cooperative where she manages the staff, which also takes up a lot of her time, not to mention her associative commitments to the commune.
Howis the division of labor with your employees?
We have defined a very precise schedule that we try to keep. We each have our own on-call work schedule according to the two milkings and our respective lives. It is a rigorous organization to respect the schedules of our employees. We each have our own schedule and we take turns to be 2 working on the farm all the time. For the rush periods, we can be 3 or 4 to work but it is rare, because we have young children so my wife or I have to be at home at certain times to take care of them.
We also chose to work 1 weekend out of 2 and to have one day off per week. We only do one milking per day and per person: if we milk in the morning we don't milk in the evening and vice versa. This allows to finish earlier or to get up later, to take care of the children but also to have the pleasure to sleep a little more and not to get up every day at 5:30 am! During the routine period, we don't do more than 30-35 hours on the farm, to which we add some administrative work. It's a comfortable organization where we don't need outside help: if an employee is off work or on vacation, we can share his workload without having to hire in his absence. In terms of vacations, we leave for 2 weeks in summer, 1 week in winter plus a few days for extended weekends, to go skiing for example at the moment!
Is there a typical work day on your farm and if so what does it look like?
Dairy farming allows us to have well-paced days: the first milking is done from 6 to 8 am, then the second between 5 and 7 pm. In winter, one day a week we take care of the heifers, and in spring-summer we are more in the fields.
In terms of distribution of tasks, we have an employee who is really specialized on the herd in partnership with my wife; on my side I am in partnership with our other employee who is more versatile: she does the milking too of course, but she also works with other tools such as tractors that the other employee uses little. And on my side I manage the plot of land, the fields and a bit of administration.
You are planning to launch a photovoltaic project: why? How will you set up this project?
For us, photovoltaic is not an additional activity but it comes as a complement of income because we have an objective of autonomy on the farm, on all the possible posts. For energy, we chose a self-consumption photovoltaic power plant with sale of the surplus, which allowed us to make use of the roof of a livestock building that had to be redone. We dry the hay in the barn because it allows us to give less concentrate to the cows, which corresponds to the specifications of the Comté PDO and it allows us to be autonomous in terms of food. But on the other hand, ventilating the hay consumes a lot of energy, which is becoming a problem now that the price of electricity is rising sharply. The project is 200 KW of installed power: we will sell 90% of the production and the remaining 10% will be self-consumed, which will represent 50% of our energy needs. This project was financed with a bank loan but also with our own funds, in order to keep a maximum of autonomy.
Everything that is possible on our farm (having two employees, financing a photovoltaic project without any problem...), is thanks to the fact that we are in PDO Comté and that the price of our milk is almost double the price of standard milk, which is the fair value of our work. We have gone for the valorization of our product, which allows us to be flexible on our cash flow and to carry out projects, make innovations and investments without having financial difficulties. If we were not in the PDO, our farm would only support two people: we could work with my wife but our quality of life would not be at all what it is today. Today, we live decently and we are rather serene about our future, despite the concerns that global warming is causing in the agricultural sector.