Laspeyrères is a 72ha (177 acre) beef farm in the Gers. It has been around a while – the main farmhouse is old and the farm name shows up on the carte de Cassini made between 1756 and 1789. Presumably it is much older than that since folks have been farming out here for thousands of years. Laspeyrères is old Gascon for The Rocks since the farmhouse is built on a rocky intrusion with the limestone walls sitting directly on limestone bedrock.
Like a lot of old Gascon farms it used to be split three ways – vines, cereals and cows. Every thirty years the vines would move to a new area and the old vineland would become cereal land or pasture for a while. We have some old aerial photographs on the wall that show the farm about forty years ago with vineyards in places where there are now pastures, but the echo of the vines is still there in shallow undulations in the soil that you feel if you drive across them.
We’ve removed the few hectares of old vines that were no longer productive and converted the land into a mixed grass and lucerne pasture. We’re focusing on beef cattle since that’s what we think Southwest France needs.
The soils here are limestone based from an old sea bed that lies underground. The ground water is very high in calcium and the soils themselves are rich in calcium, phosphorus and potassium and make an excellent base for pasture. We dug holes under the vineyards and saw the soil go to 60-80cm in depth. The pH is a natural 7, does not need liming and grows lucerne very well.