Robert Chicoine

Robert Chicoine devoted his working life to applying the best science to cattle breeding. He succeeded not only in placing Quebec dairy breeders at the forefront of the Canadian industry, but also in moving the Canadian artificial breeding industry strongly ahead in the global marketplace.

Robert was born and raised in St-Pie-de-Bagot, Quebec, and educated at Laval, obtaining a B.Sc. (Agr,) a M.Sc (Agr,) and later a Ph.D. honoris causa. He joined the Centre d’Insémination Artificielle du Québec (CIAQ) as a dairy sire analyst in 1966, and immediately started a progeny testing program using breeders’ herds as the test population; he succeeded because he offered excellent young sires for testing. He was the first analyst in Canada to insist on using genetic indexes for all sire selections. CIAQ became a dominant source of Holstein semen for use throughout not only Canada, but soon in the USA and abroad. Robert served as general manager of CIAQ for 14 years.

The same principles were applied to the coloured dairy breeds, and in 1987 he was instrumental in setting up a national progeny testing program for them as well. The national scope gave then much better access to the best bulls in the country, more quickly.

Embryo transfer became commercially feasible in the '80s and Robert founded Boviteq to develop the application of this technology in the province. He also introduced a computer-aided breeding advice program to assist breeders in sire selection for their herds.

The success of CIAQ under his leadership gave Robert Chicoine a leading role in research in the Canadian industry, both within AI through the Canadian Association of Animal Breeders, and also on the Research Committee of Holstein Canada. He was instrumental in establishing the Claude Hayes Chair in reproductive science at Laval. When sire analysis was privatized in Canada, Robert played a major role in setting up the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) and DairyGen, to calculate and publish genetic evaluations, and to continue the search for better techniques.

When Semex Canada and WestGen decided to form a single national export agency, they needed a general manager who could pull the whole industry together. Robert Chicoine served Semex Alliance in that role until his retirement in 2000. He is now focusing on the conservation of farm animal genetic resources as vice-president of the Foundation (CFAGRF).

Nominated By:
  • CIAQ
  • Semex Alliance