This past weekend Dr. Gilles Patenaude, the 84-year-old patriarch of Ferme Gillette, passed away.  Five generations of Patenaude’s have farmed on their “Century Farm,` but it was Dr. Gilles and his wife Lorette that first started the family into Holsteins.  Gilles purchased the family dairy farm from his father in 1958 and in 1960 started into purebred Holsteins.  Why? “Because in everything I did I wanted the best.  It’s as simple as that.”

Joined in the family dairy by his four sons, Marc, Louis, Vincent, and Mathieu and their families, achieving the best is exactly what the Patenaude family has done.  Master Breeder shields, All-Canadian awards, Class Extra Sires, World Record Producers, Canadian and International Cow’s of the Year, they have achieved it all.  Of course this success does not happen overnight. Neither did it come easily.  For Gilles Patenaude and his family, their hard work has led them to breeding one of the best dairy herds in the world.

Dr Patenaude, a dentist by trade, practiced for 40 years then retired in 1996.  Becoming a dentist was a lifelong ambition for Gilles who had dreamed of it since he was 5 years old.  Nevertheless becoming a dentist would not come easily for Gilles.  You see he was dyslexic and that made it very challenging for him in school.  Fortunately for young Gilles he was also very competitive and his desire to be the best at whatever he did would help him overcome these challenges.  He was a boxer, swimmer and wrestler while attending University of Toronto.   His time at University also taught him another important lesson in life.  In order to become a dentist he had to make many financial sacrifices and learn the difference between merely spending and investing.  This lesson has paid many dividends over his career.

The mark of an impactful life is made, not through the achievements you collect, but rather by the legacy you leave behind.  For Gilles, that legacy is represented by his and Lorette’s four sons – Marc, Louis, Vincent and Mathieu.  Eldest son Marc is in charge of the field crops and fieldwork and he has two boys Eric, who is heavily involved in the marketing of Ferme Gillette, and Martin.  Louis, the public face of Ferme Gillette, looks after the farm’s elite genetics herd plus marketing.  He has three children, Paul, Amelia and Camille, who are all very involved in the family operation.  Vincent is responsible for the large commercial herd and his wife, Dr. Christie McLeod, is a veterinarian and they have two daughters, Rachel and Danielle.  The youngest of the brothers is Mathieu who is responsible for machinery and accounting.  With wife Adela they have two young sons, Jonathan and Stephane.

Like Gilles’ personal road to becoming a dentist, the road to success for Ferme Gillette was certainly not an easy one.  In 1994 tragedy struck when the Patenaudes sustained a fire that killed 205 cows and destroyed their main free-stall barn and milking parlor plus the show barn.  Fortunately a key survivor was Gillette Blackstar Christiane (VG-88-17*), who rose from the flames and ashes of the blaze to go on to win Holstein Canada’s Cow of the Year in 2000.  This would be the third fire to occur at Ferme Gillette.  In 1970 a fire destroyed the barn, and a second fire in 1980 killed a few head of cattle and damaged the buildings.  As Dr. Gilles pointed out, they just kept on going “Because we love it”.  Therefore, I was not surprised when the Marcus family of Woodstock recently lost their herd to fire, to learn that it was Dr. Gilles’ son Louis was one of the first to reach out to Clarence, and share their support and experience to help them.  We are happy to report that the Marcus family is well on the way to milking again by summer.

The list of accomplishments for Dr. Gilles Patenaude and the team at Ferme Gillette is exceptional.  Here are some highlights:

  • 1878 Dr. Gilles Patenaude’s grandfather settles on farm at Embrun, Ont.
  • 1958 Dr. Gilles Patenaude buys family farm from his father and replaces dairy herd with beef cows.
  • 1960 The Patenaudes switch back to dairy cows and begin with purebred Holsteins. Dr. Patenaude joins Holstein Canada, using prefix “Gillette”.  Taken from his and his wife’s first names.
  • 1970 Fire at Ferme Gillette.
  • 1980 Fire at Ferme Gillette.
  • 1981 Farm incorporated as La Ferme Gillette Inc. Gilles and Lorette Patenaudes’ four sons – Marc, Louis, Vincent and Mathieu – become partners in the farm with them.
  • 1985-86 Ferme Gillette makes purchases in Bond Haven Dispersal, Hanover Hill Dispersal, Sunnylodge Top 40 Sale, Cormdale Dispersal and Cormdale High Index Invitational Sale to enhance genetics in their herd.
  • 1990 First La Ferme Gillette Sale in April sees 102 head sell for a total of $1,029,950 and an average of $10,097 making it highest herd sale for year in Canada. Startmore Merrill ET, Canada’s number one indexing cow, tops sale at $500,000 and is highest selling animal of year. At the time, she is the third highest selling milking female ever sold in Canada.  The Patenaudes had purchased Merrill as a calf for $63,000 in the 1986 Cormdale High Index Invitational Sale.
  • 1991 Hanoverhill TTA Roxie sets world record for protein in 365 days of 817 kg.
  • 1992 Ferme Gillette partner with the recently deceased Hardy Shore to host Visions ’92 Sale in August. The sale averages $10,600 on 41 head, highest of the year.   (Read more: Hardy Shore – Shormar Holstiens – Obituary)
  • 1994 Fire destroys dairy barns and 205 head of cattle at Ferme Gillette on November 22nd. The Patenaude family begins to rebuild. One of the few animals to survive was the “miracle” cow, Gillette Blackstar Christiane (VG-88-17*), who would go on to win Holstein Canada’s “Cow of the Year” award in 2000. Gillette ties as leading owner of Honor List producers. 
  • 1996 After 40 years Dr. Gilles Patenaude retires as a dentist, giving him more time to enjoy the farm. “Dentistry was really my fulfillment in life,” he says.
  • 1997 Gillette Visions ’97 Sale averages $7962 and grosses $1,337,675 on 168 head in November, making it best sale of the year. Skys-The-Limit Claire tops sale at $275,000 and is highest selling animal for the year. Gillette Carlton, son of Maeford Starbuck Chrissy (Ex-17*),  becomes their first Class Extra bull. The Patenaudes will eventually breed nine Class Extra bulls, eight with the Gillette prefix, along with 22 Superior Type and 10 Superior Production bulls.  The Patenaudes purchased a first choice from Gypsy Grand by “Wade” at the 1997 RockyMountain High Sale. When it came time to make their selection, however, Louis Patenaude was so taken by the “Storm” daughters from Gypsy Grand at Braedale that he asked if he could chose one of them instead. Second Cut was soon on her way to Ferme Gillette
  • 1998 Three cows make Canadian champion production records – Gillette D L Bonbon, 2-year-old Total Performance and protein champion; Calbrett Valiant Ruby, 10 years & older protein champion; and Gillette Jed Pandora, yearling Total Performance champion (and briefly fat champion). Gillette is runner-up for leading owner of Honor List producers.
  • 1999 Gillette Brilea Belle Fleur is Canadian champion for Total Performance, milk and protein in yearling class for Ferme Gillette and Brilea Holsteins. Belle Fleur had several sons in A.I. The most famous was Gillette Brilea F B I (Ex-94-Extra), the popular “Mtoto” son at the Semex Alliance, who in turn is the sire of Gillette Windbrook (Ex-94-Extra). Ferme Gillette is number one Production Herd in Canada.  Ferme purchases  Windemere-Masmill Jellybean (Ex-90- USA-GMD-DOM-6*), a “Leadman” daughter. Purchased Jellybean as a 9-year-old cow from Jim and Nancy Kemp of Ohio.
  • 2000 Gillette Blackstar Christiane named “Cow of the Year” by Holstein Canada. Her son, Renaissance Triumphant, is tied as Canada’s number one conformation bull in May. Braedale Second Cut becomes number one cow for fat in Canada in November. She would achieve this distinction four more times. Windemere-Masmill Jellybean is new Canadian fat champion in 9-year-old class. Ferme Gillette is runner-up for leading breeder and owner of Honor List producers. They earn their first homebred All-Canadian award on Gillette Rubens Dolcevita. Dolcevita was one of three animals owned by Ferme Gillette to win their class at the Royal Winter Fair.  In February 2000 the bull jointly bred by Ferme Gillette and Brilea Holsteins, Brilea Gille Foreman (VG-Extra), claimed Class Extra. This “Skychief” son was purchased by United Breeders/East Gen. His dam was Quietcove Star Fanta-ET (VG-88-15*), a “Blackstar” from Quietcove Valiant Fawn (Ex-95-2EUSA- GMD-DOM-10*), the “Valiant” who was Reserve All-American 4-year-old in 1987.
  • 2004 Gillette-I Durham Jericho is number one LPI Cow in November. She would repeat that feat in February 2005.  Gillette Blitz 2nd Wind (VG-88-26*) topped the fall edition of the Triple Crown Sale as a recently fresh 2-yearold for $30,000 to Toshiaki Yamada of T-Wave Holsteins, Hokkaido, Japan, with Ferme Gillette retaining an interest in this valuable “Blitz” daughter
  • 2005 Ferme Gillette wins Master Breeder shield. Gillette Blitz 2nd Wind heads LPI Cow List in August and then in November becomes first cow in breed to surpass +4000 LPI (+4066). She will eventually lead LPI Cow List six times, as well as being first for type four times and first for milk three times. Ferme Gillette is Premier Breeder at Expo-Printemps Holstein Quebec and Ontario Summer Show. Gillette James Cabrelle is Reserve intermediate champion at the Quebec Show and intermediate champion at the Ontario show. Cabrelle tops Sale of Stars at $180,000. Gillette-I Durham Jericho is overall leader on the Honor List. “FBI” became Class Extra on his first proof in May 2005. In 2005, the Patenaudes realized another of their goals…a Master Breeder shield.
  • 2006 Ferme Gillette has top five cows on August LPI Cow List –2nd Wind, Zone, S Cut, Jericho and Second Cut. Second Cut is dam of the top three. Gillette ties as leading owner of Honor List Producers.  Gillette Final Cut (VGExtra) became Class Extra on his first proof in May 2006. Sired by “Inquirer”, “Final Cut”is a son of Braedale Second Cut (VG-86-23*). A homebred “Dundee” daughter from the Spottie family, Gillette Dundee Sunshine (VG-89), claimed Reserve All-Canadian as a senior calf.
  • 2007 Gillette Blitz S Cut is number one for milk in February and again in January 2008. Gillette has six cows in the top 10 of May LPI Cow List and eight in the top 13 in February. Gillette Dundee Sunshine (VG-89), claimed Reserve All-Canadian as a milking yearling. A granddaughter of Jericho’s by “Morty”, Gillette Morty Jerianne (Ex-95-2E), was Honourable Mention All-Canadian junior 3-year-old.
  • 2009 Gillette Shottle 2nd List, Canada’s number one LPI heifer, tops RockyMountain High Sale at $140,000 and becomes second highest selling bred heifer for all-time in this country. Ferme Gillette is Junior Premier Breeder at Kemptville Championship Show and wins both junior and reserve junior champion rosettes. Gillette S Planet 2nd Snooze (VG-86-2y)  sold for $75,000 in the 2009 Sale of Stars to T-Wave.  Gillette Miss Damion (VG-88), 2009 All-Canadian senior yearling.
  • 2010 Ferme Gillette tops both the LPI Bull and GLPI Cow Lists in August with Gillette Jordan and Gillette Bolton 2nd Sleep, respectively. 2nd Sleep was also number one GLPI cow in April. “Jordan’s” brother, Gillette Jerrick is number seven, the first time in history identical twins, who are the result of embryo splitting, rank in top ten. In December, “Jordan” remains number one bull, while Gillette Windbrook is tied as number one bull for conformation. “Windbrook” becomes Class Extra following in the footsteps of his sire, Gillette Brilea F B I, who was Class Extra in 2005. Gillette E Smurf becomes new Canadian champion for lifetime milk production with 206,934 kg. Gillette is leading breeder and owner of Honor List producers.  R-Z Baxter Caramel-ET (VG-89-2y-DOM). This “Baxter” daughter was purchased for $100,000 in the 2010 Matriarchs of the Breed Sale in Wisconsin by Ferme Gillette, Ferme Maryclerc Inc., Ste-Claire, Que., A. & R. Boulet Inc., St-Francois, Que., Olivier Leclerc, St-Patrice-de-Beaurivage, Que., and Dany-Pierre Rondeau, Fortierville, Que. She is backed by four generations of Very Good or Excellent bull mothers whose sire stack includes “Goldwyn”, “O Man”, “Durham” and “Juror“.  With the introduction of Genomics Caramel would see extreme popularity as a bull mother.
  • 2011 Three sons of Gillette Blitz 2nd Wind rank in top five of LPI Bull List in April, with “Windbrook” at number two and Gillette Wildthing and Gillette Willrock at number five. “Wildthing” and Willrock”, a pair of identical twin bulls from a split embryo, are the first progeny proven sires to receive identical genetic evaluations based on a pooled group of daughters.
  • 2012 Gillette Blitz 2nd Wind would earn Canadian cow of the year, International cow of the year, and Bullvine’s Golden Dam  honorers. ( Read more: 2012 Golden Dam: The Results are In!)  Gillette Emperor Smurf EX-91 earns a Guinness Book of World Record as the most prolific milk producer in the history of dairy cows. (Read more: World Records Are Not Only Set at the Olympics) Gillette Visions 2012 sale averages $11,900 with Ralma-RH Manoman Banjo topping the sale at $131,000.  (Read more: Gillette Visions 2012 Sale – Great People, Great Cattle = Great Results!)

Smurf receiving a special award from MP Grant Crack

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Life is never boring at Ferme Gillette.  There are so many things happening there. But from now on the absence of Dr. Gilles will be hard for the entire team.  His love for details and hands on efforts from fixing fences to keeping the farm esthetically pleasing will be sorely missed.  While Dr. Gilles had stepped aside for his sons and the next generation and had moved from leading to guiding the team, he certainly left his impact on the family and, by extension, on the dairy industry as a whole.  Dr. Gilles was extremely proud of the fact that “All my family is happy with what they are doing.” From the entire   team here at the Bullvine, our sincere condolences go out to the Patenaude family.  As a breeder, friend and family man Gilles always sought excellence and, in so doing, lived his dream. Gilles Patenaude was simply the best.


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