The Maine-Anjou breed originated in the northwestern part of France. This area is excellent for beef production as it has both grassland and tillable land.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the cattle in this region were large, well-muscled animals with light red coats spotted with white. These cattle were known as the Mancelle breed. In addition to their size and muscling, the Mancelle has a reputation for their easy fattening. Laclere-Thouin, an agriculturist, wrote in 1843 that on the community pastures of the Auge Valley, the Mancelle "were the last to be put onto the grass, but were the first to be picked out to go to the markets in the capital city".
In 1839 the Count de Falloux, a landowner, imported Durham cattle from England and crossed them with the Mancelle. The cross was extremely successful, and by 1850 Durham-Mancelle animals were winning championships at the French agricultural fairs. In 1908 the Society of Durham-Mancelle Breeders was formed at Chateau-Gontier in the Mayenne district. In 1909 the name was changed to the Society of Maine-Anjou Cattle Breeders, taking the name from the Maine and Anjou river valleys.
The Society has worked steadily for the improvement of the breed. Breeders of the cattle were mostly small farmers whose goal was to maximize income from their small area of land. For this reason, the Maine-Anjou evolved as a dual-purpose breed, with the cows used for milk production and the bull calves fed for market. It is still common on many farms to find Maine-Anjou being milked. In many herds, half the cows are milked and the other half raise two calves each.
The first Maine-Anjou imported into North America came to Canada in 1969. These cattle were then introduced to the United States through artificial insemination.Maines today have evolved to include solid black, black and white, solid red, and the traditional red and white color. Commercial trends have gone towards the solid color cattle however; the fullblood cattle were and are a very important part of the Maine Anjou breed in the past and the future.
Maine Anjou breeders have refined the breed to allow for calving ease but not to sacrifice performance. More and more Maine Anjou bulls are being used each year in a variety of herds, both on cows and heifers. Maternal traits such as mothering and heavy milking go as far back as the origins in France where Maines were a dual purpose breed; cows were used for milk production and bull calves were fed for market. With a history with genetics like that it is no wonder why Maines are labeled with such terms as “performance second to none”, and “crossbreeding specialist”. There is no question that Maine-Anjou adds value to any herd and have secured a place in the commercial industry in the New Millenium.