Domaine du Merle, Moutons

Domaine du Merle

Salon-de-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône, France)

Update : 05/13/2024

The Domaine du Merle, located in Salon-de-Provence — the only Montpellier SupAgro establishment in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region — is a teaching and experimental platform specialized in transhumant sheep breeding, irrigation and water management, and production of Crau PDO hay.

Missions: produce, train, experiment, promote & host

The "Merle 2020" project supports agro-ecological transition, serving students, researchers and socioeconomic actors such as businesses, farmers and local authorities. Its activities include:

  • Sustainable production and marketing of products produced on the estate: sheep (PGI Lamb of Sisteron and selected breeders) and Crau PDO hay
  • Training of transhumant shepherds (oldest school in France, 1931), multi-skilled rural workers, initial and continuing training for students at Montpellier SupAgro and other institutions of higher or technical education and various partners
  • Zootechnical, agronomic and hydraulic experiments conducted with Montpellier SupAgro’s scientific partners, in particular INRAE, and demonstration and dissemination activities in response to requests from the regional sheep sector and actors involved in water management and Crau hay
  • Sharing scientific knowledge and culture with the general public
  • Establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Transhumance Resources in partnership with the Maison de la Transhumance
  • Project to create a discovery trail and a multimodal sheepfold
  • Project of a path ”La Routo” by the Maison de la Transhumance; this GR®-type hiking trail will connect Arles to Borgo San Dalmazzo in Italy and will help to enhance the environmental, patrimonial, and economic dimensions of transhumance.

Main teaching activities

Carried out by the Merle training centre

  • Agricultural Professional Certificate (BPA) option Livestock Production, specialization Ruminant Breeding "Shepherd, transhumant employee"
  • Training of shepherd-assistants within the framework of an association of employers working to help young people to find jobs and gain qualifications
  • Short thematic training courses

Serving as a support to training programs

  • M.Sc Water Sciences, specialization Water and Agriculture (Montpellier SupAgro, AgroParisTech and University of Montpellier)
  • Agricultural engineering programme at Montpellier SupAgro
  • Hydro specialization (Water Resources) of the master’s programme, Water Sciences, of the University of Aix-Marseille in collaboration with the European Center for Research and Education in Environmental Geoscience (CEREGE)

Experimental activities

  • Introgression and diffusion of a high prolificacy gene in the Mérinos d'Arles breed, in collaboration with INRAE (Genetics and Physiology)
  • Deployment of an automated heat detector in conventional and organic dairy sheep farming combined with an automatic sorting gate in collaboration with UMR Selmet and socio-economic partners
  • Replacement ewe lamb management in collaboration with the Institut de l’élevage and the Maison régionale de l’élevage of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
  • Implementation of the SIROP program: Innovative Solutions for Ovine Reproduction in AgroPastoral Breeding
  • Analysis of how the territory of Crau functions, on-going changes, socio-ecological system  and development of adaptation measures for its sustainability
  • Instrumentation of canals and fields and development of a hydraulic model
  • Hydrogeological functioning of the Crau water table
  • Impact of canal overflow on the evolution of natural areas
  • Effect of land uses on water quality under the impact of global changes.


Scientific partnerships

Domaine du Merle, expérimentation

With research and higher education institutes AgroParisTech, CIRAD, CNRS, INRAE, IRD and the Universities of Aix-Marseille and Avignon within the joint research units CEREGE, EMMAH, G-EAU, IMBE, LISAH, SELMET and numerous socio-economic partners.

Services for professionals

  • Accommodation (20 places): 18 single or double rooms, 2 of which reserved for guests with reduced mobility.
  • Reservations are possible based on availability for groups participating in events (seminars, conferences)
  • Rental of three meeting rooms

Key figures

• Staff: 12 agents including 9 from Montpellier SupAgro and 3 from INRAE
• Utilized agricultural area: 400 hectares, including 142 ha of irrigated meadows and 230 ha of coussouls, or arid steppes (National Nature Reserve of Crau Coussouls)
• Livestock: 1 500 Mérinos d’Arles ewes
• Production of PDO Crau hay: 1,100 tons of which 1,000 sold
• Internship hours: 25,000 hours/year
• Budget: €720,000 of which €580,000 (revenue Domaine) and €140,000 (revenue training)



Domaine et Centre de Formation du Merle
Rd 113


L'Institut Agro Montpellier
2 place Pierre Viala
34060 Montpellier - France
Tél. : +33 (0)4 99 61 22 00 Tél. : +33 (0)4 99 61 22 00
Fax : +33 (0)4 99 61 29 00

Member of :

Founder of :