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 cattle being milked. In many herds, half the cows are milked and the other half raise two calves each.
The Maine-Anjou is one of the larger breeds developed in France, with mature bulls weighing from 2,200 to 3,100 pounds on the average. Mature cows will range from 1,500 to 1,900. The coloring is very dark red with white markings on the head, belly, rear legs and tail. White on other parts of the body is also common.
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.
The Maine-Anjou Society, Inc. was incorporated in Nebraska in 1969, and included both American and Canadian members. In 1971, the name was changed to the International Maine-Anjou Association and headquarters were set up in the Livestock Exchange Building in Kansas City, Mo. In 1976, the name was changed to the American Maine-Anjou Association. In 2001, the American Maine-Anjou Association purchased a building in Platte City, Mo. as its headquarters.
Modern day Maine-Anjou are more solid in color pattern than their ancestors with a large percentage of registered American Maine-Anjou cattle being black in color. The Maine-Anjou breed excels in performance/feed efficiency, disposition and superb carcass traits. Dominance of feeding trials coupled with favorable returns on dollars invested have made Maine-Anjou cattle a feedlot manager's dream.