A farm that has grown with children

SAINT-MATHIEU-DE-RIOUX – Alexandre Anctil’s path seemed to have been mapped out in advance. After studying plant agriculture at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire (ITA) in La Pocatière, he will take over the production of rustic roses in his parents’ greenhouse. However, life and the elements decided otherwise.

Data sheet

name of the farm
Abitibienne farm

Sheep production

Foundation year

Names of the owners
Alexandre Anctil and David Gagnon

Number of generations

Cultivated area
184 cultivated hectares of which about 50 of barley and 134 of fodder

550 sheep

“The farm has suffered some serious hardships that have undermined its financial health,” says Alexandre Anctil, who has just returned from harvesting maple sap for a promisingly disappointing season in Bas-Saint-Laurent. . “There was a fire and, two years later, a strong wind tore the roof off the sawdust warehouse which fell on the greenhouses. Roses can be hardy, but going from 15 ° C to -20 ° C in one day was too much. My father had to sell the company, ”recalls the producer.

However, the sale of the family business did not alter Alexandre’s taste for agriculture and rurality. After his studies at the ITA in La Pocatière, he joined the Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) in 1996, where he spent 16 years in charge of public markets and union life. However, the desire to own his own farm does not abandon him. With his wife, Mélanie Duquette, whom he met at ITA, the project took shape, parallel to his work in UPA..

It is from Mélanie, originally from Abitibi, that the company takes its name: the Abitibienne. “We were looking for something profitable, feasible, livable. Sheep production allowed for a gradual start, ”says Alexandre Anctil. This type of production also lent itself well to the couple’s family ambitions. “My wife quickly decided to stay home, because we started our family very, very quickly,” says the proud father of four children, three girls and a boy born in just under six years.

values ​​and land

“From the very beginning, the farm was a way to get what we wanted: to live in a rural setting and raise our children on the land,” explains the producer. “Raising children on the farm is great. It is the development of autonomy, of the sense of responsibility ”, says the man for whom the family clearly occupies a central place. “I am convinced that we don’t need to take trips to Walt Disney with our children to share something. We can transmit values, a way of being, by collecting rock ”, insists the 46-year-old father, whose children grew up hand in hand with the farm founded in 2000.

Alexandre Anctil has chosen a triple hybridization of his sheep to ensure better productivity.

“We started from scratch. Zero land, zero buildability. Nothing ”, remembers Alexandre Anctil. “We are talking about moving a building from neighboring land, a first year in a rented building in a nearby row with fifty sheep,” says the producer of heavy lambs and replacement sheep, whose number of females has now reached 550.

He had to make the strategic choice of the triple hybridization of his sheep: Dorset, Romanov and ram for slaughter. A wise choice if the manufacturer is to be believed. “It must have been four or five years since I surpassed the 110 kilograms of meat sold per sheep. This year we are at 114 and we have already reached 128, while the ASRA model [assurance stabilisation des revenus agricoles] he foresees about fifty kilos a year, per ewe ”, says proudly the one who sees the birth of 2,200 to 2,400 lambs a year in his fold.

Technological equipment

“Mélanie and I are very focused on efficiency and productivity,” emphasizes Alexandre Anctil. Since I was working outdoors, I had little time. We had to find ways to make the work efficient. »Efficiency rhymes with comfort, as in the numerous spacious and well-lit work areas, camera system to monitor lambs, 9-meter-high megadome with tunnel ventilation and electronic climate control, automated feed distributor and so on.

The same reasoning applies to the machinery he shares with a producer and friend, Étienne Jean, of Ferme DLC, in Saint-Simon. “I could never have bought it myself. Since there were two of us, we had the means. We have equipped ourselves with high-performance tools that reduce our costs and our labor requirements, “says the sheep farmer.

An important advantage of the 9 meter high megadome with tunnel ventilation: the almost total absence of odors.

An important advantage of the 9 meter high megadome with tunnel ventilation: the almost total absence of odors.

The success of the company

Alexandre Anctil hardly hesitates when asked to identify his best shot. For him it is having found a companion, David Gagnon, for half of his farm a few months ago, at the end of 2021. “Today, instead of getting tired and disgusted, instead of losing the sacred fire, I have now chosen to associate and keep the desire to bring him back to life [le feu sacré], because I feel like I’ve lost it a little. I was always running, “she admits.

Selling part of his farm remains a difficult choice. “We have to share the decision-making process, make concessions,” acknowledges the lamb producer, who still seems happy with his decision. “Today I breathe and have money, rather than waiting until I am 60-65 like many people do. ”

David Gagnon (left) partnered with Alexandre Anctil in late 2021.

David Gagnon (left) partnered with Alexandre Anctil in late 2021.

Claude Fortin, special collaboration

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