Arnaud always wanted to rear livestock, and that is exactly what he set about doing as soon as he arrived at the Domain: a new model of agriculture that respects the environment and animals, sustainable yet still profitable, with a focus on saving ancient local breeds that have now virtually disappeared.

A heritage farm

As a young boy in Normandy with his grandparents, Arnaud designed the farm that he would have “when he grew up”. The winding ways of life took him in other directions, but he never gave up his dream. Involved in this sector’s large-scale industrial farms via his career as a vet in the animal health industry, Arnaud has always argued that there has to be more than just the one productivist and industrial model of agriculture. When Arnaud and Fabienne settled at Domaine de la Valette, they had an opportunity to develop an ambitious agro-tourism project, build their farm, rear old French domestic breeds (representative of their terroirs) that are under threat or only found in small numbers, and demonstrate that a different, sustainable, environmentally friendly, balanced, healthy system of agriculture is also possible.

Biodiversity and environment

Local breeds began declining in the 1970s as they no longer met the criteria of modern productivist agriculture.

As a member of various networks of passionate and enthusiastic farmers, Arnaud will introduce you to this wealth of living French heritage, deeply rooted in its local region yet fantastically modern and creating a future for generations to come. “On our own little scale, we are quite simply helping to showcase fantastic local breeds threatened with extinction as a result of pressure from hugely industrialised agriculture”, Arnaud explains. These breeds are part of a virtuous ecosystem. There is no widespread destruction as a result of pesticides or other crop protection products here. Here the hedges are not being pulled up, they are being replanted. By being granted access to undergrowth that protects them from the sun and inclement weather, the animals enjoy a variety of vegetation that gives their meat particular complexity.

The breeds

La Valette farm now has around ten different ancient breeds that are being kept not as remnants of the past, but to drive viable and healthy economic activity.

  • Jodie des Barthes de l’Adour, a twenty-year-old Landais pony, had her first foal Ikatxu in May 2018 and thus prevented her line from dying out.
  • Maguy, a young female Berger d’Auvergne dog, is one of only fifty currently known remaining examples of this working breed.
  • Cotentin donkeys Quenotte, Emaye and Fluor accompany young and old as they hike the Domain’s trails.
  • Our farm’s ancient poultry breeds:
    • Gascony hens with their delicious eggs
    • Coucou de Rennes hens with their unmistakable meat
    • Very rare Gascony turkeys and yellow Landes turkeys which offer a reminder that this is a meat for festive occasions
    • Grey Landes geese, which have virtually entirely died out, producing incredibly refined confits, breast meat and foie gras

Cotentin donkey (1)

Use of this species dates back over 4000 years. It was widespread from the Middle Ages to the 18th century.

Originating in the north of the Cotentin, this donkey is a local breed that was used for agricultural work and for carrying goods (especially milk) in the Lower Normandy area. Widely used by poor families for its sober temperament, over the 18th and 19th centuries the Cotentin donkey was gradually replaced by workhorses and has suffered tremendously from the mechanisation of agriculture. From a total of approximately 9,000 donkeys in the 1930s, the species has dwindled to just a few hundred individuals today, but numbers are once again climbing: in 2011, 152 donkeys were born.

Quenotte (aged 12) is the mother of Emaye (aged 3) and of Fluor de La Valette (born on 11 June 2015).

Bazadais cattle

Originally used for working the land, this breed saw its numbers drop dramatically with the mechanisation of agriculture in the wake of the Second World War. Bazadais cattle are now used for the production of beef.

With known examples of this breed reduced to just 700, a revival was planned and implemented in the 1970s. Today the Bazadais breed totals 3,300 animals in South-Western France, from the Gironde to the Pyrenees. Compare this number with the total of 1,500,000 Charolais or Limousin cattle, much more productive breeds.

Our poultry:

At the end of the Second World War, home consumption disappeared and gave way to industrial standardisation of chicken rearing strains. Around twenty chicken breeds virtually died out, including Gascony hens and turkeys and Coucou de Rennes hens.

Gascony hens (1)

Originating in the Garonne valley, these hens are considered a rustic fowl that flourishes best if raised in liberty. It has been declining since the 1950s, and in the 1970s almost vanished except on a few farms.

Coucou de Rennes hens (2)

“A real farm hen”, according to the journal “Acclimatation” on 4 July 1915

A chicken with striped plumage like that of a woodland cuckoo. A mixed breed (eggs and meat) famed for the quality of its flesh.

Fewer than 1000 reproducing birds in existence.

Gascony turkeys (1)

Only found on a very small number of farms, the Gers turkey became endangered following rural depopulation and changes to agricultural methods. It likes to graze and roam large distances. A male turkey weighs at least 8 kg and a female at least 5 kg. The female turkeys are excellent egg incubators and good mothers.

Mérens horse (1)

The Mérens breed is an extremely old one that has always ranged freely in the Pyrenees in the Ariège. The breed is very standard as it was for a long time isolated in the mountains. Rustic and of good character, it used to be very popular as a pack horse or for small agricultural tasks. It came very close to extinction, as in the 1970s there were only 4 stallions and around 40 mares left. The numbers are still small but it is no longer at risk as there are about 500 births a year and more than a thousand mares.

Quartz and Qlamour are 12-year-old gelds.

Landais pony (1)

La Valette farm is involved in the Landais pony conservation programme run by the Conservatoire des Races d’Aquitaine thanks to its 18-year-old mare Jodie. The breed numbers just 90 mares and 15 stallions, which is far too few. The Landais pony is one of the equine breeds most threatened with extinction and preserving it is a priority. Shaped by the marshy meadows and Landes forests around the river Adour, it is rustic and lives outside all year round. It is an excellent sports pony and adapts well to all disciplines.

This information comes from an excellent reference work entitled “Nos animaux domestiques – le tour de France d’un patrimoine menacé” written by our friends Philippe Dubois and Elise Rousseau and by Jean–Claude Périquet (published by Delachaux et Niestlé).

The farm’s produce

The rearing and production of veal, pork and beef on La Valette farm holds organic farming certification from ECOCERT. Environmental consequences are taken into account in all that we do.

We supply crates of our meat to Bergerac, Périgueux, Libourne and Bordeaux. Any more distant deliveries are sent using cold chain logistics verified by Chronofresh.

The farm animals are reared outside where they can roam freely in their natural environment of different pastures and undergrowth, using ancestral farming methods that respect the animals’ well-being. They drink spring water and recovered rainwater. Organic food supplements rich in omega-3 (alfalfa, fava beans, flax seeds) – made from ingredients grown without any synthetic chemicals or GMOs and containing no flavour enhancers, colourings or synthetic flavourings – are also used to enrich their food.

Our modern diet, based on industrial products, is overly rich in omega-6 which is pro-inflammatory and a vector of chronic diseases. The current ratio in Europe is more than 10:1 for omega-6 to omega-3, whereas a balanced level would be 1:5 of omega-3 to omega-6. Eating meat rich in omega-3 helps to correct this imbalance.

The rearing conditions and food quality (in particular thanks to the diverse flora) give our meat striking complexity of flavour with intramuscular fat and an exceptionally tender texture.

Our animals are primarily treated with gentle medicines made from plants and essential oils.