Corsica: the new state weapon against cow premium fraud

By the end of 2023, 40,000 cattle will have a microchip in their stomach. Objective: to fight against wandering cows and fictitious herds. A first in France.

From our correspondent in Bastia, Julian Mattei

VS’is the state’s new weapon against cow premium fraud. A tiny ceramic capsule containing an electronic chip, together with an identification number. Code name: “Bolus”. For the past few days, teams from the Regional Directorate for Food, Agriculture and Forestry (Draaf) in Corsica have been crisscrossing cattle farms on the island to equip cows with this brand new identification system. The process is simple: it consists in making the animals ingest this capsule so that it can be deposited in the rumen of cows. The passage of a reading stick then makes it possible to identify each bovine with a unique number, kept for life.

“This operation concerns the entire cattle herd in Corsica, explains to the Point David Le Sourne, leader of this project within the Draaf. This system, painless and without risk for the animals, will make it possible to better trace the herds, including for health reasons, in an island where bovine tuberculosis circulates and where the extensive breeding makes it difficult to follow the animals. If this device already exists in Portugal or Spain, Corsica is the only region of France where it is deployed.

From October 2023, the Bolus will even be made compulsory so that the 1,200 breeders on the island can have access to slaughterhouses and obtain aid from the common agricultural policy (CAP) specific to cattle. The famous “cow premiums”, which have shaken the island agricultural world following judicial investigations having targeted several breeders since 2018, including executives of the chambers of agriculture, due to declarations of fictitious livestock.

Rampage, the other scourge

The stakes are high: the Corsican beef sector alone captures 40% of the public aid allocated to the island and the number of breeders has jumped from 900 in 2015 to more than 1,200 last year, while production continues to decline… By ensuring animal traceability, this inviolable chip is intended, according to the Draaf, to “prevent possible fraud” and to fight against another scourge specific to the island: wandering, which causes dozens of road accidents each year and poisons daily life in the villages. The authorities estimate between 10,000 and 15,000 the number of stray cows on the island…

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The State has finally decided to take the bull by the horns: to equip some 40,000 Corsican cattle, the Draaf has recruited around twenty agents and invested nearly 1 million euros. The unit cost of these chips – about 2 euros – and their installation, in addition to the usual “loops” on the ears, are fully covered by the State.

At the head of a herd of around fifty animals in Villanova (Corse-du-Sud), Paul Bianchi does not see this new system with a negative eye, all the more so after the multiple cases which have tarnished the image of the breeders on the island: “This system will undoubtedly allow us all to no longer be considered as fraudsters, believes this operator, member of the agricultural union Via campagnola. It will ensure additional traceability. However, do not expect a miracle solution for straying: the Bolus will not solve the problem of thousands of stray wild animals that breed outside farms. »

A measure that divides

In the farms, in any case, the announcement of this new measure does not only make people happy. If the Draaf claims to have received only 8% of refusal among the breeders, the device comes up against the hostility of the agricultural institutions which already shout at the “stigmatization. ” The president of the Chamber of Agriculture of Haute-Corse, Joseph Colombani, does not intend to submit to it: “By conditioning the aid to this electronic chip, this system makes Corsica a unique case in Europe, supports this cattle breeder and nationalist militant, leader of the FDSEA on the island. The basic amount of aid is already lower on the island, since it is 50 euros per animal against 60 euros for the national average. In reality, this is only an accounting measure to further reduce state support for Corsican agriculture. After this operation, who will pay to equip the newborn calves? This remains very vague and we have no guarantee, either, on the risk of mortality for the animals which will ingest these capsules. Not to mention that, in all this, there is no progress on the development needs of the beef sector. »

This is to say if the Bolus has not finished growing bellows in the Corsican valleys…

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Corsica: the new state weapon against cow premium fraud

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