REGINA, Sask. — Since Maine Anjou cattle landed in Canada in 1969, they have undergone a major transformation.
Popular as a crossbred, they are usually solid black but the original French cattle were red with large splashes of white. Craig Cameron wants to retain the original strain by raising fullblood cattle that trace directly back to France.
“We had a feedlot before BSE and we were feeding up cattle for a lean, natural beef market in the States. We had different sorts of cattle come through. We had a couple groups of Maine crosses that outperformed everything else,” he said from his stall at Canadian Western Agribition held in Regina Nov. 19-24.
He started to research them and bought a seven-eighths Maine steer that won him a grand championship when he was still in 4-H.
He has been breeding fullbloods for about five years and has built up his herd to about 50 head at his Millet, Alta., farm. He crossed some with commercial cows and was impressed with the resulting hybrid vigour in that first generation.
“We really liked what fullbloods did with our commercial herd,” he said.
“I decided if I was going to raise fullbloods for myself, I might as well raise them for other people too.”
Finding bulls and semen can be challenging because there are so few maintaining cattle that trace directly back to France. He recently imported semen directly from France to keep the gene pool diversified.
“We figured the fastest way to get a good herd was to use the best genetics that are out there,” he said.
For some, seeing these cattle is like a walk down memory lane.
“In the show ring, the fullbloods won’t very often place very high be-cause they are not built like what people want their cattle to look like, but the majority of fullblood bull sales go to the commercial guys. They want the power they put in their cattle.”
The breed registers percentage cattle known as Mainetainers as well as purebred and fullblood cattle.
Fullbloods must be DNA typed to verify they are 100 percent Maine Anjou.
He and his wife, Miriam, have also developed a natural beef program selling meat to Edmonton. The meat is from hormone and antibiotic free registered and crossbred cattle and comes in three varieties.
They offer regular beef that is well marbled and tender. The lean variety is from Maine Anjou-Longhorn cross cows. The ultra lean variety is based on beef from Piedmontese and Piedmontese cross cattle.