Metropolitan cows back in Reunion pastures

Plain of the Kaffirs. Banned on the territory since 2008, ruminants from mainland France will be able to be reintroduced following a prefectural decree in January. The goal is to develop the local dairy sector, in demand for animals. The first specimens are expected for this Friday.

They hadn’t put a hoof on the island for almost 15 years. The metropolitan cows will return to the Reunion meadows from this Friday, where eight heifers will disembark from Roland-Garros airport before returning to a dairy farmer in the Plaine des Cafres.

A transaction that was still unthinkable a few years ago, when the import of these foreign ruminants on the island territory due to the health risks dictated by leucosis. A terrible disease that ravages farms, and which prompted state services to issue a ban in 2008.

Since then, by dint of strengthening health protocols, the State concedes to loosen the noose and a new decree of last January comes to break the one mentioned above. “This is really good news, even a necessity for our sector, which needs animals to fill buildings that are 70% full and to encourage the installation of young farmers”, relates Martha Mussard, the president of Sicalait, a cooperative of breeders and dairy producers on the island.

This re-introduction is thus permitted thanks to specifications listing measures intended to increase the health security of the species, such as compulsory transport by plane and not by boat, quarantine imposed on animals on departure and arrival as well as a battery of tests.

Eight first specimens will thus land this Friday, June 10 at Roland-Garros airport. Other weekly flocks are already planned to send 72 cattle in one month. Ultimately, Sicalait has identified a need for 1,000 animals over three years.

Skander Farza

The press release from Sicalait:

For the first time since 2008, the first 8 6-month-old pregnant heifers out of the 72 purchased of the Prim’Holstein breed (the black and white ones), from Metropolitan France, land on our island on Friday June 10, 2022.

All 72 heifers will arrive over a period of 1 month, in batches of 8 on 9 airliners. ” SICALAIT has decided not to introduce a large number of animals, i.e. a maximum of 160 in a cargo plane, in order to manage this first introduction in a serene way. » comments Charles ADRIAN, Managing Director of SICALAIT. Eventually, over a period of 3 years, almost 1,000 dairy cows should be introduced to our island in order to sustain the Reunion milk sector and the income of breeders. But also increase the production of pei milk. Currently, breeders in Réunion produce 18 million liters of milk out of the more than 100 million liters consumed.

Suspended since 2008 by a prefectural decree requested at the time by professionals, the introduction of ruminants into Reunion has been possible again since January 20, 2022, governed by very strict health specifications and a new prefectural decree. The Regional Council for the Orientation of Animal and Plant Health Policy (CROPSAV) accepted, in June 2021 and following the request for the introduction of dairy cows from SICALAIT, that an independent and scientific commission conduct an analysis of this request, that it establish its merits and the risks and also that it list the potential bovine diseases.

Since August 2021, this independent commission – made up of the Réunion Chamber of Agriculture, the Sanitary Defense Group (GDS), the Réunion Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives (FRCA), the Center for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for the Development (CIRAD), specialists from the Maison Alfort veterinary school and the veterinary services of the DAAF Réunion – re-examined the question of the introduction of animals into the territory. With this introduction, the challenges are twofold: 1/ meet the animal needs of Reunionese breeders to consolidate their income; 2/ speed up the sanitation of cattle farms – in accordance with the request of the President of the Republic during his official visit in October 2019, in his speech at Grande Anse.

In December 2021, CROPSAV took note of and validated the request to lift the ban on the introduction of animals. A new strict sanitary framework applies to any introduction of ruminants in Reunion, with two preliminary stages:

  1. Submit a request for introduction to the Reunionese Interprofessional Association for the Introduction of Ruminants (ARIPIR), the association which has an interprofessional agreement on the health framework to be respected for introducing ruminants in Reunion.
  2. Obtain a health opinion from a CROPSAV sub-committee bringing together private veterinarians and veterinary services from the Food, Agriculture and Forestry Department of Reunion (DAAF)

In addition to these two preliminary steps, each applicant must also comply with the specifications and the health protocols decided by the profession and validated by the health services in order to avoid the appearance of new diseases in Reunion farms. The content of these specifications, and the objective of these health protocols is as follows: to guarantee the absence of animal diseases on departure from Metropolitan France; ensure good conditions for transporting animals by air; guarantee the implementation of a supervised quarantine (before departure and on arrival in Reunion). But also, to define in advance the actions to be taken in the event of the appearance of symptoms of a disease in a new animal introduced to the island. The Reunion Health Defense Group (GDS) and veterinarians are responsible for the proper implementation of this health framework, at the request of ARIPIR.

It is in full respect of these specifications and health protocols that the first 8 cows are introduced into Reunion Island on Friday, June 10.

  1. These cows were transported from their quarantine center in Métropole to Roissy in air-conditioned trucks, with water and hay available. They benefited from a veterinary follow-up of more than 2 months, during their quarantine, including screenings and a battery of blood tests to look for diseases, and ensuring their deworming as well as their mosquito removal.
  2. These cows were watered until the last moment, before being housed in the two wooden boxes that allow their journey. These boxes, whose floor is covered with a thick carpet of wood shavings for their comfort, guarantee their stability and the absence of any injury during their journey.
  3. Air transport is the least stressful mode of travel for animals (12 hours by plane versus 3 weeks by boat)

For this first introduction, SICALAIT relied on the experience of a partner of Métropole who for more than 40 years has been transporting animals all over the world, following the example of the 1200 animals he brought to Kuwait after the invasion of 1990. “In forty years of work, I have never had such imposed specifications, and yet God knows that we export with countries or companies with very high standards” confides the Managing Director of the agricultural cooperative follows the introduction closely.

Monitored daily by Reunionese veterinarians during their quarantine, all heifers will be subjected to a whole series of tests. After quarantine, and after having received the necessary approvals and authorizations from the authorities, the animals will be welcomed into a new dairy farm in Reunion. No other cattle from Réunion will be present on this farm. At this breeder, they will be the subject of particular attention with a demanding health monitoring of one year without the animals being able to enter or leave.

Financially, each cow brought to Reunion by plane costs the equivalent of 7,000 euros. “In Reunion, a pregnant dairy cow is sold for 2,800 euros to dairy farmers. Thanks to the financial support of our partners in the Réunion milk sector, an introduced heifer costs the breeder the same price as a cow raised on our island. There is therefore no additional cost and no additional expense for all Reunionese dairy farmers. It is also the price of respect for the other sectors who have fears and doubts! the price of learning! the price of courage to be the first to do! the price of respecting very strict specifications! the price to perpetuate a sector and the income of dairy farmers” concludes Martha MUSSARD, President of La SICALAIT.

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