Transhumance is growing in popularity in France, and the work of shepherds has taken on a whole new meaning against a backdrop of increasing predator attacks. Anyone who decides to spend a herding season in the mountains must be aware of the challenges: loneliness, very long working days, working in wind and weather. The reward lies in living in harmony with nature and the flock.
Listen to the interview with Matthieu in English!
Testimony of Matthieu, France
- Second half of his 20ties
- Grown-up in Paris region
- Engineering diploma from an elite university
- I decided, I don’t see myself 8 hours/day/5 days a week in an office.
- Short agricultural apprenticeship over winter
What did you do?
- 2022: First season as herder in French Alps (4 months)
- 120 Goats, 2/day manual milking of 50-60 goats
- The reason why they hired a shepherd was wolf-protection; before, the goats run free.
- Daily walk to different mountain pastures – according to the weather and grass growing
What was the most challenging task?
- You walk all day – on dirt trails, in the flock’s rhythm
- You work every day, no matter the weather
- You start early and finish late
- You are alone! However: I like loneliness, reading, the animals and the beautiful landscape.
- 10 days to build a relationship of trust with the dogs
- There is a lot of romantics; however, it is very hard work.
Which kind of training would be helpful for you?
- How much do goats eat? Per day? And what/what not?
- Medical care (first aid for animals)
- I could not have been alone with the flock for 4 months because I had not enough knowledge.
- A booklet with the most important transhumance knowledge and emergency phone numbers would be helpful.
Which recommendations do you have for others?
- If you are sure that you’d like to do it for several years/your whole life: first make a formation, at least 6 months
- Amazing experience!
Matthieu, a young graduate engineer from the Paris region, has no regrets about opting for nature instead of an office life. As further training measures, he would appreciate first aid for animals and a better knowledge of the plant world – especially medicinal and poisonous plants. His conclusion: This was my first, but not my last season as a shepherd.