Once upon a time... AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY. Scroll down to read more...

Tell me about biodiversity

Biodiversity, a topic currently booming and a worldwide issue, which nevertheless remains mysterious for many of us.

The notion of biodiversity comprises three interdependent levels: the diversity of life (sea, meadows, forest, etc ...), the diversity of species (including the human species), and finally, the diversity of individuals within each species (or genetic diversity).

Biodiversity provides the essential needs for life (eg food, clean water and air). It offers protection against natural disasters and diseases (by regulating climate, floods and pests, for example).

Agrobiodiversity is like biodiversity?

Agricultural biodiversity or agrobiodiversity consists of plants, animals, insects, but also bacteria and even soil fungi ... The conservation and management of agrobiodiversity are major issues for a planetary agriculture which will have to feed more than 9 billion people in 2050. The maintenance of Agrobiodiversity is essential for agricultural ecosystems to be able to adapt to global warming. Agrobiodiversity is actively managed by farmers.

In France, we protect our natural and living heritage

France has an exceptional natural heritage. It occupies the first place in Europe for the diversity of amphibians, birds and mammals.

However, diversified production systems are threatened at the local level, 80% of local breeds were endangered in 2014 (Source INRA). As a result, several actions and laws have emerged in order to preserve biodiversity in France. As early as the 1970s, Regional Conservatories were created to conserve genetic resources, preserve species and natural environments.

Preservation of Agrobiodiversity in Nouvelle-Aquitaine

From the end of the 80s, the Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine was one of the first in France to be concerned about this major issue. The region owns a wide diversity of species. Several means have been implemented to find the last existing animals of certain breeds that were scattered between many farms.

This large-scale work has helped livestock owners in their projects to rescue rare breeds. Today, Nouvelle-Aquitaine has many cattle and sheep breeds that have gradually repopulated certain parts of their ancestral territory. The Bordelaise cow is one of these, a fine example of preservation.

The Bordelaise cow, an emblematic breed of agrobiodiversity in Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

Almost totally extinct as few years ago, the Bordelaise is today reborn throughout the region. Its population has multiplied by 10 in 15 years, in small herds spread between passionate farmers. They have found new breed characteristics, in addition to its unique genetic heritage, which makes it ideal to reconnect with sustainable farming. By leaving the cows to graze in a natural way, as in the past, the Bordelaise cow preserves the environment in an ecological way. Eco-pastoralism is an alternative economy to mechanization, necessary for the protection of the biodiversity of these environments.

A bull "Bordelais" with a beautiful pigaillée dress, it can weigh up to 900 kg. There are two subtypes of the breed: the "bayrette" and the "pigaillée", like this bull.
A herd of 10 Bordelaise cows was introduced in 2010 at the Parc Floral de Bordeaux on 20 hectares of meadows bordering the Garonne, for better management of biodiversity. They still benefit today from the wealth of meadows.

A typical aspect of this race Bordelaise: they all have black ends. Their hardiness and lightness allow a "soft grazing", favoring the biodiversity of the ecosystem. Formerly this race was present in all departments of the Southwest; today, it is developing again.

A suckler cow and her calf, which appreciates the quality of her milk. Considered one of the best dairy cattle breeds of the nineteenth century, Bordeaux almost disappeared.
The Fourcade farm in Bruges, known for its organic farming of Bordelaise cows. Males and females are small, about 1.35 meters tall. They are popular in wetlands such as swamps, alluvial meadows, but also coastal pastures.

The Bordelaise cow in history

XVIII century - The rustic dairy cow with variegated dress

Existence of a population of rustic dairy cows with variegated dress, around Bordeaux.

1870 - Epidemic of peripneumonia

An epidemic of peripneumonia decimates the herds: the race suffers but is reconstituted.

1900 - Breeding of Bordeaux cows

Old farms of Bordelaise cows grazing around castles.

1934 - Paris Agricultural Competition

Presentation of a batch of Bordelaise cows and bulls at the Paris agricultural competition.

1960 - Beginning of the extinction of the Bordelaise cow

After the Second World War, the country resorted to industrialization to rebuild itself, which gradually led to the disappearance of the Bordelaise cow, which could not resist the growth of other breeds.

1978 - Disappearance of the Bordelaise cow

The Bordelaise cow is considered missing by the ITEB *. (* ITEB: Technical Institute of Cattle Breeding)

1990- Creation of the Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine

A herd with a strong Bordelaise dominance is found in Dordogne. Creation of the Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine plan to save the breed.

1996 - Launch of species protection action plans

Launch of action plans for endangered species.

2008 - New preservation techniques

New techniques are emerging to preserve the breed. 3 bulls are used in natural mounts and 9 in artificial insemination by the Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine.

2012 - Back to the use of ancient breeds

Return to a use of ancient breeds that adapt to agricultural practices in favor of biodiversity. Creation of the prize for animal agrobiodiversity by the Foundation du Patrimoine with the support of Ceva Santé Animale to reward the livestock owners who work to protect endangered breeds.

2018 - The Animal agrobiodiversity Prize

The young farmer, Christophe Guénon wins the 2nd prize for animal agrobiodiversity with the Bordelaise cow at the International Agricultural Show in Paris.

Mai 2018 - Nouvelle Aquitaine Agricultural Show

The Bordelaise cow is presented at the Salon de l'Agriculture of New Aquitaine in Bordeaux, May 2018

Testimony of a young, traditional cattle owner.

The Bordelaise and Christophe Guenon: from market gardening to farming

In 2011, Christophe, a young organic market gardener near Léognan (Gironde), took on the opportunity to reintroduce the Bordelaise breed on his family farm near Bordeaux.

I grew up with cows on our family farm, we had all breeds. I had already heard about the Bordelaise from my father and my grandfather, who once had it on our farm. They were crossed with black Friesians, then the strain was lost. No more bulls were found, and the race disappeared little by little.

I went to see the Conservatoire des races of Aquitaine and explained to them my project. They came to see me at the farm and lent me a bull and two heifers to start with. The county council has agreed to rent 32 hectares near my farm in Cadaujac, natura 2000. These cows are particularly popular in the meadows along the river.

How was this conversion?

Very good, I already had a little experience, I was interested in several breeds to protect and market gardening on the farm, there was only one step to take. I was able to develop my herd over a few years, with 32 head today. Every year, the Conservatoire lends me a bull to avoid consanguinity in the herd; that way I can sell females to other breeders and contribute concretely to the continuation of the breed. And I "return” a cow to the Conservatoire every year so that it is placed with another breeder, to avoid too many crosses.

In a few words, how would you describe the bordelaise?

It is a normal-sized animal, about 135 cm-140 cm, which weighs around 600 kg for a heifer and up to 900 kg for a male. They all have black "socks", some have an original dress called "pigaillee", that is to say white background and small black spots tightened. There is also a variant with the Bayrette, which once dominated the farms: it has a black and white dress more classic, and assets such as great hardiness and good dairy qualities. Otherwise, they have a rather calm character, they calve all alone and are very good mothers.

Is this breeding profitable?

At first no, because it was necessary to pay the loan for the equipment, there was also the rent for land along the Garonne. But then the market gardening activity ended up balancing things, and my livestock became profitable. The Bordelaise cow is well adapted to small productions like mine, because I can sell in direct sales lactating females and veal raised under the mother. This is the reason why I won second place in this year’s National Agrobiodiversity prize with the Foundation du Patrimoine and Ceva Santé Animale. In fact, I'm just replicating the way my ancestors used to work, and it works!

Evolution of the number of Bordelaise cows and bulls

A strong regional partnership

Located in Libourne, in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Ceva Santé Animale is the first French veterinary company.

In line with its vision "Together, beyond animal health", Ceva is mobilizing support for all forms of agriculture and helping to preserve agrobiodiversity.

The group has shared a partnership for several years with the Conservatoire des Races d’Aquitaine, with several projects for the preservation of local breeds like the Bordelaise cow.

The Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine is a non-profit association created in 1990 to deal with the disappearance of domestic animal breeds and the biological and cultural diversity associated with them.

The Conservatoire works closely with numerous associations, livestock owners, and other actors in the region to protect and develop endangered local breeds in the Aquitaine region.

Their stories are told in a new Conservatory site to promote the agricultural biodiversity of the region.


© Photos vaches Bordelaises : Jean Michel Le Saux © Photos château : Syndicat Mixte du Bassin Versant de la Vérèze

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