Energy on the Thomas Maltais Farm and Jonquière, Chicoutimi, Québec

Figure 1a The farm of Jean Maltais (circa 1906). Jean was the eldest son of Thomas Maltais whose 1871 Census of Canada farm energy profile we highlight in this piece. Jean and his younger brother Louis inherited their father and mother’s farm in Jonquière, Chicoutimi, Québec. The two brothers, Monsieurs Jean and Louis Maltais, won the gold medal in Quebec’s 1899 Concours Provincial de Mérite Agricole–the 1899 Agricultural Merit Contest. Photo used with permission. McCord Museum View-4076.

The Maltais Farm in Québec’s Chicoutimi Region is an example of a Livestock-Focussed Farm with Grain Surplus. Thomas Maltais (b.1833/ d.1890) reported owning 300 arpents, or 102.6 ha, within the Jonquière census subdivision (CSD) in 1871.[1] He also owned an additional 140 arpents (47.9 ha) outside the Jonquière CSD. He had two houses, eight barns, stables, or outbuildings, three sleighs or summer carriages, five wagons, five plows, one threshing machine, and one crib.[2] Thomas and his wife Hermine (b. 1835/d. 1917) had five children in 1871: three daughters, Georgiana, Marguerite, and Philomene, who were 16, 15, and 13 years old respectively, and two sons, Jean, 11, and Louis, ten. They also had a young man, Jean Brapard, age 20, living on the farm. Given the genders and ages of the Maltais children, Jean Brapard was probably working as a farmhand to help Thomas get some of the heavier farm work done. The two brothers, Jean and Louis, farmed the land together after their father’s death in 1890, and they won the gold medal in Quebec’s 1899 Concours Provincial de Mérite Agricole–the 1899 Agricultural Merit Contest. In 1881, Georgiana was still living on the farm, along with her brothers Jean and Louis, Jean’s wife Philomene, and the couple’s child Thomas who was two months old.[3] The year 1891 found the family diminished due to father Thomas’s death in 1890.[4] However, the third generation was quickly expanding with seven grandchildren between the two young families.[5] By then, Jean, Louis, and their families were listed as separate households situated next to each other, and their mother, Hermine, aged 57, was living with Louis and his family. Ten years later, in 1901, Jean and Louis, still listed as separate households situated next to each other, were farming 94 ha together. Each had his own house and outbuildings. Jean’s house had eight rooms, and he had four barns, stables, or other outbuildings. Louis’s holdings were smaller. He had a five-room house and two barns, stables, or other outbuildings.[6]

Figure 1b Thomas Maltais (b. 1833/d. 1890). Photo from Ancestry Family Trees,

The judges of the 1899 Concours Provincial de Mérite Agricole awarded Jean and Louis 92.0 points (out of a possible 100), winning them the gold medal. The next highest score was 91.90. The judges noted that, in general, the cultivation methods of the Maltais brothers did not exceed other farmers. They worked their fields on a five-year rotation. In the first year, a field was sown with cereal along with clover and millet. Years two and three saw the same field in hay, and in years four and five the field was used as pasture. What made the Maltais farm stand out was its orderliness, cleanliness, and the thoughtful consideration given to farm management. In particular, the judges noted the care the Maltais brothers put into preserving the legacy left to them by their parents, Thomas and Hermine. 

Figure 1c. Lots 19 and 20 of Range V in the Jonquiere CSD comprised Thomas Maltais’s farm. Both lots were on the River Sable which is a tributary of the Saguenay River. George N. Tackabury. Tackbury’s Atlas of the Dominion of Canada. Montreal: George N. Tackabury, 1876,

Figure 1d: Google Map of Jonquière.

Farm Energy Funds

Thomas Maltais’s 102.6 hectare farm was 100 percent improved (or cleared) in 1871. We don’t know about the development of his 47.9 ha parcel located outside the Jonquière CSD. It may have been improved, may have been in woodland, or may have been a combination of improved land and woodland. For contrast, the Jonquière CSD itself was only 38.8 percent improved in 1871. The Concours Provincial de Mérite judges felt that the Maltais’s land use was typical by 1899, but three decades earlier it was clearly much more advanced than other farms in Jonquière Thomas’s 102.6 ha was also over three times larger than the average farm (32.7 ha) in the Jonquière CSD. Maltais kept horses, oxen, milk cows, other horned cattle, sheep, and swine–the same farm animals reported for the Jonquiere CSD. However, he had approximately four times more animals, no matter the species, on his home farm than other farmers in the Jonquière CSD had on theirs. His focus was on ruminants with 25 bovines and 31 sheep. 

Looking again at Thomas Maltais’s 102.6 ha, he had substantially more land in pasture and hay than did the average-sized farm in the Jonquière CSD. His pasture land was 17.1 ha and his hayland was 6.8 ha, whereas the average-sized Jonquière farm had 4 ha of pasture land and only .7 ha of hayland. The livestock intensity of Thomas Maltais’s 102.6 ha was 16.8 livestock units (LU) per km2, and his farm’s grazing intensity was 1.28 ruminant units per ha of pasture. For the Jonquière CSD it was 9.3 LU/km2 and 1.04 ruminants per ha of pasture. Thomas Maltais had 21 cords of firewood on hand, whereas the average-sized farm in the Jonquière CSD had 43 cords. With two houses to heat, Maltais would have needed more wood than a farm with only one. Likely much of his 47.9 ha parcel was woodland, and this is where he came by his wood. However, with limited farm labour on hand in 1871, the family may have harvested on a neighbour’s property or crown land, or even purchased some of their firewood already cut into lengths. Figure 2b shows that other Jonquière farmers possessed a huge woodland fund (up to 4,222 ha).

Figure 2a. Area Visualization of Thomas Maltais’s farm in 1871 showing his two parcels of land (150.5 ha) combined. The 47.9 ha that was outside the Jonquière CSD is in light grey. We do not know if the 47.9 ha was improved land, woodland, or a combination of both. Of his 102.6 ha of improved land that we know about (the coloured polygons), most was used for crops: wheat, barley, oats, peas, and potatoes. Thomas Maltais’s energy strategy was weighted toward peas and grains. The five-year crop rotation meritoriously mentioned by the 1899 Concours de Merite Agricole judges when Thomas’s sons Jean and Louis were farming was not the practice of Thomas 28 years earlier, in 1871.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization of the Jonquière CSD, Chicoutimi, Quebec, in 1871. Noteworthy here is that the occupied land was 52.7 percent of the total agroecosystem and that of the occupied land, 32.8 percent was improved. Of the improved land, approximately 55 percent was in crops, leaving the remaining 45 percent for pasture and hay. Hay production was a relatively small share of total land use in Jonquière. In many ways, Thomas Maltais’s farm (see figure 2a) was far more developed than the Jonquiere CSD in which it was situated.

Farm Energy Flows

In 1871, the Thomas Maltais farm produced 348 bu of spring wheat, 41 bu of barley, 1,011 bu of oats, 211 bu of peas, and 218 bu of potatoes. The Jonquière CSD produced the same crops, plus fall wheat, rye, beans, buckwheat, corn, turnips, flax, hemp, and tobacco.

The Maltais farm had over three times the amount of land in crops (78.3 ha) as he did fodder (23.9 ha). In the larger Jonquière CSD, these two land uses were roughly equal in size. Both areas reused virtually all of their fodder (Figures 4a and 4b) and at least two-thirds of their grains (72% on the Maltais farm). Maltais’s large concentration of ruminant livestock meant that he still had a feed deficit of 664,114 MJ. Figures 3a and 3b do not include peas in the feed balance, so it is likely that a tenth of his deficit was satisfied by the farm’s pea harvest. Due to the large amount of straw available from Maltais’s oat and wheat crops his litter deficit was zero. In contrast the Jonquière CSD’s feed deficit was 53,052,435 MJ and the litter deficit was 11,677,115 MJ. However, those deficits were relatively small per farm (276,314 MJ feed per farm and 60,818 MJ litter per farm). In the case of Maltais, who had abundant crops, including, for example, 1,011 bu oats–a significant cash crop–it would have been relatively easy to cover the cost of bringing in hay to cover any feed deficit. There is also the possibility that some of his additional property (47.9 ha) was in hay (and/or pasture) which could have addressed the Maltais farm’s bovine feed deficit in particular.

In 1871, Thomas Maltais reported having one horse over the age of three, one colt or filly, four working oxen, nine milk cows, eight swine, 13 other horned cattle, and 31 sheep. He slaughtered three cattle, 14 swine, and 16 sheep and produced 500 pounds of butter and 80 pounds of wool. This was more butter than his family would need, so there must have been gate sales of butter from the farm, and the same could be true of milk. The average farm in Jonquière CSD had, as did Thomas Maltais, one adult horse. Beyond this category, the Maltais farm surpassed the average farm in Jonquière on every count. The average-sized farm in Jonquière had .2 colts or fillies, .2 working oxen, 2.5 milk cows, 2.6 swine, 2.4 other horned cattle, 6.4 sheep; slaughtered .4 cattle, 2.5 swine, and .25 sheep; and produced 42.5 pounds of butter and 14 pounds of wool. In energetic terms, the Thomas Maltais farm’s animal products greatly exceeded the average producer in the Jonquière CSD. For example, the energy of Maltais’s butter and milk combined was 41,506 MJ. The same combination for the Jonquière CSD was 1,965,733 MJ or 10,238 MJ for the average-sized farm. This is because Thomas had nine milk cows compared to the 2.5 of the average-sized farm. Whereas, in 1871, the Thomas Maltais farm produced no hand-made flannel or linen (yet 80 pounds of wool had been produced), the average-sized farm in the Jonquière CSD produced 21 yards of home-made flannel and six yards of linen. It may be that the 80 pounds of wool produced on the Maltais farm were sold to a local textile mill. Although the Maltais farm did not have textiles on hand in 1871, this changed over time: the judges of the 1899 Concours Provincial de Mérite Agricole noted that Jean and Louis’s 20 ewes provided enough wool for homemade fabrics needed to satisfy their families, suggesting that they were producing wool flannel in 1899.


In 1871, Thomas Maltais’s farm was very prosperous compared to the average farm in the Jonquière CSD. He hired a farmhand, Jean Brapard, to assist with farm labour. His wife, Hermine, and his older children, daughters Georgiana, Marguerite, and Philomene, probably also got work done on the farm, possibly milking and churning butter. His sons Jean and Louis, who were eleven and 10 at the time would have had farm chores. Not only did Thomas Maltais have two parcels of land that were 150.5 ha in size combined, but he also had eight barns, stables, and other outbuildings, plus carriages, farm wagons, plows and other farm equipment on his land. The Jonquière CSD does not list a dairy in the industrial schedules of the 1871 census, meaning there was no large dairy operation with more than five employees in the area. There may, however, have been small dairy operations to which Maltais transported his milk, perhaps on a weekly basis. Thomas Maltais’s energy strategy was to put over 70 percent of his improved land in crops–spring wheat, barley, oats, peas, and potatoes–of which the surplus could be sold for a profit. The grain crops produced large amounts of straw which is why the Maltais farm’s litter deficit was zero. Excess litter would have been another farm production that Maltais could sell. After meeting the demands of his own livestock, Maltais’s crops would have been exported to urban centres for consumption. The wheat and potatoes were for human consumption, but the oats and litter would have helped to meet the demands of urban horses.[7] A highly successful farmer, Thomas Maltais was not only raising crops for his family’s and local consumption, but also for profit.

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[1] “Thomas Maltais,” 1871 Canada Census, RG31, C-10349, Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

[2] Whereas schedule 1 of the 1871 Canada Census lists the land a person occupies within the CSD in which he or she resides, schedule 3 lists all the land a person owns in the Dominion of Canada. Thomas Maltais reported 300 arpents (102.6 ha) on schedule 1, but 440 arpents (150.5 ha) in schedule 3. Therefore, the difference (47.9 ha) had to be outside the Jonquiere CSD, but it  was probably close by to his farm. Schedule 3 is also where houses, barns, plows, and other farm implements were reported.

[3] “Thomas Maltais,” 1881 Canada Census, C-13208, LAC. Jean’s wife’s first name was the same as Thomas and Hermine’s daughter who was no longer listed as living on the farm.

[4] Thomas Maltais,” Ancestry Family Tree,

[5] “Jean Maltais” and “Louis Maltais,” 1891 Canada Census, T-6391, LAC. Jean and Philomene had five children: Maria, eight, Lya, seven, Alice, four, Luce, two, and Francois, five months old. Louis was also married by this time to Magdeleine, and the couple had two children, Rose-Anna, five, and Elie, one.

[6] “Jean Maltais,” and “Louis Maltais,” 1901 Canada Census, T-6518, LAC.

[7] Clay  McShane and Joel A. Tarr, Horse in the City: Living Machines in the Nineteenth Century (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2011), 129.