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The Canadienne is a dairy breed developed in French Canada from cattle imported back in the XVIIth century from Brittany and Normandy. The Canadienne is the only breed of dairy cow native to North America. At its origins, it was not the result of genetic blends and was once exclusively and intimately linked to Quebec’s terroir*. Today the Canadienne is seriously threatened. It nearly disappeared entirely due to cross-breeding with the Brown Swiss breed. Very few purebred animals remain, but a current trend towards the traditonal-type Canadienne has initiated conservancy and development efforts in regards to its genetic make-up. Its advancement is primordial to guarantee a future for this breed of French-Canadian heritage.
* Terroir: A place-based designation, intimately linked with the land, the soil and climatic conditions.

Breeding and Production Systems

According to Dervillé et al. 2009 , the Canadienne breed is above all a dairy breed serving dairy systems. In fact, the ADCC prioritized using the Canadienne cow when setting up a production system specific to its terroir, where milk is destined for cheesemaking. Indeed, the Canadienne cow is intimately tied in with Charlevoix’s terroir, and produces milk with excellent cheesemaking properties – such as high levels of protein. The principle at the heart of such a system is authenticity; this is why the lineage of all Canadienne cattle used for production in our system should be certified. A breeding system is based on the group management of a purebred population, while a production system on the other hand rests on the development of milk that is specific to a terroir. This is a breed that adapts perfectly to small farm operations and small cheesemaking structures, such as those featured in the Charlevoix network. The Canadienne is the breed best suited to our countryside. Its hardiness, ruggedness, sobriety, frugality and resilience to cold enable it to face the harsh Charlevoix climate. Guided as it is towards a specific strategy, the Canadienne cattle breed is reaffirming its place in history, while contributing to maintaining global biodiversity.

1 Dervillé, M., Patin, S. and L. Avon. 2009. Races bovines de France – Origine, Standard et sélection. Éditions France Agricole. p. 272 ISBN 13 :978-2-85557-151-5