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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.

Dynamics of the Breed

The Association for the Development of the Canadienne Cattle Breed in Charlevoix aims to enhance and orient the animal’s genetic development in order to find and restore the ancestral Canadienne standard, as well as the traditional-type and aptitudes of this heritage breed. Charlevoix’s bovine population management plan for Canadienne cattle will be implemented over the next few years to guarantee that the population be viable, sustainable and permanent. The Association wishes to take concerted actions with all those involved with the Canadienne breed. A number of groups in existence are toiling for the conservancy and development of the Canadienne, but concerted efforts between groups (SEBC, FPRPQ, QACB, AVCC, RBC, CIAQ and MAPAQ) are necessary for the breed’s perenniality. In fact, there is currently a work group representing most interveners from Quebec in matters concerning breeding, who also share the common desire of drawing up a strategic plan for the Canadienne. In regard to the actions undertaken and measures put forth to preserve critically rare breeds in France, the status of genetic resources still available leads to believe that as a breed, the Canadienne has a very promising future.

Conservancy and development actions put forth to date:

  • Creation of genetic semen reserves from traditional-type bulls utilized for AI (artificial insemination): 1960 - 1988 (CIAQ, RBC & private);
  • Creation of an embryo bank: 1987 - 2004 (CCBA & private);
  • Semen collection from several purebred bulls issuing from traditional-type bulls (CCBA): 1998 to 2003;
  • Creation of semen reserves for certain purebred bulls: 2007 to 2009 (ADCC, AQBC);
  • Semen collection from nine purebred bulls issuing from embryos and cattle exported to France, and now available for import into Canada;
  • In 1999, adoption in Quebec of La Loi sur les races patrimoniales (Law on Heritage Breeds);
  • Economic vocation of the purebred breed in the development of Canadienne cow’s milk for a terroir-based network in Charlevoix;
  • Implantation of a Canadienne cattle population in Charlevoix (in progress);
  • Fabienne Thibeault becomes involved with gaining recognition for the Canadienne cattle breed’s heritage and merits;
  • Creation of a work group composed of all Quebec interveners, to draw up a strategic plan for the conservancy of this heritage breed.

CIAQ: Centre d’insémination artificielle du Québec (Quebec Centre for Artificial Insemination)
MAPAQ: Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (Agriculture, Fisheries & Food Quebec
CCBA : Canadian Cattle Breeders’ Association (SEBC - Société des Éleveurs de Bovins Canadiens)
RBC: Rare Breeds Canada
ADCC: Association for the Development of the Canadienne Cattle Breed in Charlevoix (Collectif de Charlevoix ou l’Association de mise en valeur des bovins de race Canadienne dans Charlevoix - AVCC
AQBC: Association québécoise du bovin canadien (Quebec Association for the Canadian Breed)
FPRPQ: Fédération des producteurs de races patrimoniales du Québec (Quebec Association of Heritage Breed Producers)