The return of wolves in areas of extensive ovine breeding questioned the pastoral practices. The everyday nocturnal gathering of the flock and the modification of its management, the implementation and the upkeep of nocturnal pens, the feeding of protection dogs as well as the search for victims of wolf attacks represent an average extra work of 7 hours a day for flocks of 2,000 heads on mountain summer pasture, according to a study led by the CERPAM and the Institut de l’Élevage.
The goal of the measure "support to herding" is to take in charge this additional work by allowing, depending on the size of the flock, to pay for the investment of the breeder-shepherd, to subsidize the hiring of a shepherd or of a shepherd’s assistant for the large flocks already kept by a shepherd. The commitment of a breeder is to ensure the gathering of the animals every day.
This measure represents in average 85% of the sum of the aid to protection, dogs representing 10% of it and the pens 5%. Considering the importance of the amounts at stake, the aid to herding is set aside for the breeders of the circle 1.
The breeder has two options to ensure the herding : employ a shepherd (or a shepherd’s assistant) or herd the flock himself.
Concerning employment, funding require written proof. Then funding can subsidize up to 80 % of the global capital expenditure, in a daily limit (77 € per day) and in the global limit af funding, estimated with flock’s size and the duration of the season of grazing.
If the breeder herd the flock himself, funding is estimated with a fixed rate depending of the flock’s size:
from 50 to 150 animals in the flock, the fixed rate is 0.13 € per animal and per herding day;
for bigger flocks, the fixed rate is 31 € per herding day.
For the flocks of more than 1,200 animals, ensured herding has to be done by an employed shepherd or by a provision of a service.
Hiring a shepherd’s assistant:
Hiring a shepherd’s assistant, like any seasonal occupation, requires official steps that can seem complex.
The "Titre Emploi Simplifié Agricole" or TESA groups together the procedure necessary for the hiring of seasonal staff in a single document (term: minimum 1 day, maximum 3 months). The TESA is therefore aimed at all the agricultural employers who need working force on the short-run. The shepherd’s assistant can fulfil these criteria.
The assignments of the shepherd’s assistant:
The shepherd’s assistant can fulfil several tasks that all aim at compensating the increase of the workload due to the return of wolves. These missions can be:
moving the nocturnal gathering pens;
moving from one grazing area to another and transporting the equipment;
feeding and taking care of the protection dogs;
taking part in the search for killed, wounded or lost animals;
and any task, defined with the shepherd, the contractor or the breeder.
The limits of the measure:
Hiring a shepherd or a shepherd’s assistant is often limited by the housing capacities on the high mountain pastures.
In the Northern Alps, the absence of natural predators for almost a hundred years and the increase of the cost of the working force made breeding more extensive and caused the disuse of shepherds’ cabins. In the areas where herding in high mountain pastures was never given up, programmes of support of this practice have existed for many years, notably through the restoring and the building of decent cabins. In spite of those already made, these efforts must be carried on.
It can also prove difficult for the shepherd and the shepherd’s assistant to live together, even when the housing is adapted: their cooperation implies a strong promiscuity that can disrupt the working habits.
Finally the hiring of a shepherd is hardly profitable as far as small herds are concerned, despite the aids put forward. The question of their protection is raised, especially for the breeders involved in different activities.
- Minutes of the seminar of the LIFE programme of restitution - p.96: Presentation of the "shepherd’s assistant" measure (in French)
- Form from the @lpes programme: Shepherds-cowherds, interface occupations: legal framework and description of the shepherd’s job (in French)