By not throwing away the sheep’s wool anymore, this is the challenge that Lot breeders launched themselves a few decades ago. With their association La Caussenarde, they have just set up their website to sell their wool products from the Causses du Quercy.
The adventure promises to be ambitious, but the motivation and determination are already there for this handful of Caussenard sheep breeders, located in the Causses du Quercy regional nature park. Gathered within the association La Caussenarde, they have just set up their website www.caussenarde.fr allowing the online sale of their fur.
There are fleece-filled jackets, pillows, mattresses, floor mats, shearlings, spears, as well as pure Lotoise sheep and pure Causse du Lot products. Assessing the wool from their flocks for which they have fought since the 80s. Pierre Réveilhac and Sébastien Gallineau, one a retired breeder, the other succeeding him at the head of his flock in Livernon, tell us about this incredible human adventure and agricultural.
“In 1982, we sold a kilogram of wool for 12 francs, or a little less than 2 euros. Wool was already in decline, being gradually replaced by synthetic fabrics. However, at that time, he still paid for the shearing of the flock, with a very small margin of income. Until the day it became a burden, even a burden. Our sheep’s wool was garbage,” recalls Pierre Réveilhac.
The word is violent, but the breeders want to fight, it is a real awareness. It will take the demand of some local weavers to re-motivate the troops. “The challenge was daunting, we had lost a lot of knowledge, there wasn’t even any rotation here anymore,” he continues. It is with a professional from the Hautes Alpes that 5 to 6 breeders from Lot take on this challenge: finding a destiny for their fur.
“In Figeac we made wool fabric!”
“In the past, our Caussenard wool was known for its swelling properties. It was in high demand in particular for stuffing mattresses. In Figeac, we made woolen fabrics! So the Chantemerle spinning mill accompanied us on our project, brought us back the skills and knowledge that had been lost. Taking the proceeds from the shearing, she gave us back woven blankets and knitting yarns that we sold on the market. A fascinating look back also with the support of the European wool Atelier network.”
The first outings for sheep’s wool from the Causses du Quercy were born. Lotois are trained and acquire skills in cutting wool, folding it, sorting it. “Only, it didn’t bring us anything financially, it was about not wasting the wool, not throwing it away, because our sector was now there. The buyers didn’t want it anymore. Shearing the animals was already a cost, so we had to send wool. Financially there was no more interest. The only thing in our eyes was not to throw it away and still try to promote our work.”
The objective is therefore fixed: the wool product must cover the costs of shearing, so that there is no more burden. While they are jumping headlong into this project, the agricultural sector is changing. There are fewer and fewer breeders in the Causse and the herds are getting bigger and bigger.
A key period to restart the wool sector in Lot
“Then, one of the knitters who had always accompanied us disappeared and from there, our association fell asleep, we liquidated the stock…”, Pierre Réveilhac regrets. Until that day in 2010 when the new weaves from Lot addressed them. Meanwhile, the Chantemerle spinning mill has ceased contract work. To restart farmers, then turn to a mattress maker from Cantal, then a little later, from Aveyron. Next it will be Creuse to develop a fine wool with a spinning mill and meeting with a weaver to make the wool fabric. “It is a mottled fabric, which is sold in pieces to make clothes, curtains. Something that we sell very well today. Moreover, we realized that in the past, this sheet of Lotois wool was used for capes, military clothing.. .”, underline Sébastien Gallineau and his partner Lucie.
If Causse buildings insulated from wool…
“Today, we proudly say that we value the wool of our sheep, but it represents almost nothing in the income of livestock farmers. However, we are at a crucial moment, to restart a sector it is necessary for our breeders to believe in it, so that we have volume and we actually see new generations settling in, people who sometimes do not even come from the agricultural world, but are aware that we can give meaning to agriculture by offering a healthy, natural and completely ecological product”, they. note. In this spirit, La Caussenarde has restarted the exercise. As for the Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park, it has recruited a project manager and is working to experiment with insulation wool and a softer wool yarn for clothing.
Another sign of these changing times, wool from La Caussenarde was all the rage at the National Wool Day in Felletin, Creuse, at the end of October. “We’re almost out of stock,” admits Pierre Réveilhac, before meeting everyone at the Montbrun-Bocage Wool Fair (31) on December 3 and 4, then at the Figeac Organic Fair on December 18.
However, all things considered, there are currently 1.5 tonnes of Caussenarde wool estimated by La Caussenarde per 300 tonnes produced in the Lot. “We will have won our bet when we can finally really pay breeders for the wool they produce. When we go from a price per kg of wool of €3 (our base price) to €5 , in front of a market that pays currently 0.50 cents per kg of raw wool”, conclude the representatives of the association who want to return their wool to its former nobility.