Mink farmers look to expand into Argentia area
Peter Noer and Erik Dalsager grew up on separate mink farms in their home country of Denmark. In their youth, one figures they would never have imagined setting up the same business on a small island in North America.
But so they have, with Viking Fur Inc. still going strong after 12 years. The Cavendish-based operation can produce upwards of 75,000 pelts annually.
The company is now looking to grow by constructing another farm in the Argentia area.
The farmers will look to lease two pieces of land already used for agricultural purposes. Covering 165 hectares, the farm would start with 5,000 breeders and look to triple that amount within five years. Dalsager, vice-president of Viking Fur Inc., anticipates that if everything goes as planned, the proposed farm could be ready to go in 2016.
The site on the Argentia Access Road has been used for many years as a sheep farm. Viking Fur expects the new farm will create 20 new full-times jobs and 15 part-time positions. The Cavendish farm is currently operating at its peak, with 85 people employed to handle all stages involved in producing mink pelts.
As Noer sees it, the farm cannot grow on its existing property in Cavendish, which already has 15,000 breeders and 21 barns.
“We maxed out here where we are, and we’d like to divert our farm out to another site as well where we can do the same,” he told The Compass following a thorough tour of the farm in Cavendish, where approximately $10 million has been invested over the last 12 years. That figure includes $2.1 million spent in the last year on improving the site’s waste management system.
Viking Fur has experienced some good years, although the current price for pelts is down considerably. The average price prod- uct attracts at auctions handled by North American Fur Auctions in Toronto nowadays is between $40 and $45 per pelt.
“We’ve seen pelts up to $100 a pelt,” Noer later added.
The price for pelts is heavily influenced by production in China.
“They have been pumping out a lot of mink on the world’s market or their own home market, which slowed things down,” Noer, the company’s president, said.
Winter weather in China is another matter impacting the price for pelts. Noer said if the country experiences a harsh winter, garments using mink sell at a good rate.
Mink is used for coats, boots, furniture and hats, amongst other consumer goods. Dalsager notes that fashion trends and demand for specific colours also factor into pricing.
In Cavendish, Viking Fur produces pelts in seven colour varieties. Noer considers white to be a traditionally attractive pelt for buyers, given it can be alternatively dyed a different colour.
The proposal for the Argentia Access Road mink farm is now going through the environmental assessment process through the Department of Environment and Conservation. The deadline for public comments is Dec. 31, and a decision from the minister is due by Jan. 3, 2015.
Viking Fur Inc. president and co-owner Peter Noer hopes to expand his mink farm operations in the near future. The company is proposing to set up a second farm on the Argentia Access Road.
The mink farm in Cavenish has 15,000 breeders that in a good year will produce upwards of 75,000 mink pelts.