Mink Crop Value Surges on Record Pelt Prices
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture has issued its latest annual report on mink production in the U.S., up to the 2005 crop year, sold at auction in February and May of 2006. (Click here for the latest NASS stats – PDF format).
Released on July 14, the report includes statistics on mink pelt production, females bred by color class, the number of mink farms, and the average price and total market value of pelts.
The resurgence of interest in fur, and heated competition among clothing manufacturers for limited supplies of top-quality pelts, has continued to impact the value of the mink crop.
The data also indicate continuing consolidation in the industry as smaller operations merge to form larger ones, and multiple operations by individual families come together under a single corporate umbrella. Over the five-year period 2001 – 2005, the number of U.S. mink farms fell by 16%, while average pelt production per farm rose 22%.
According to NASS, mink production in the US rose slightly in 2005 to 2.63 million pelts, up from 2.56 million the year before. Far more impressive, however, was the 33% jump in auction price of the crop to $160 million. This followed a smaller, but nonetheless spectacular gain of 18% in value in 2004.
The average pelt price for the 2005 crop year stood at $60.90, compared with $47.10 in 2004 and $40.10 the year before that. The 2005 price was the highest ever by a wide margin, eclipsing the previous record, set back in 1995, of $53.10. The average price over the five-year period 2001-05 was $39.70, up 24% from the $32.10 average over the preceding five years.
Pelts Per Female Bred Dip
Female mink bred to produce kits in 2005 totaled 641,100, for an average of 4.1 kits per breeding. This represented a small set-back from the upward trend of recent years, which culminated in 4.24 pelts per breeding in 2004.
Uncontrollable factors such as weather impact the survivability of litters, but the steady increase in recent years has been seen as a clear indicator of how high animal welfare standards benefit both livestock and farmers. Larger litters with higher survival rates are consistent with quality care, and are also more cost-effective for farmers.
Reflecting the strong market for mink pelts, NASS notes that 651,600 female mink were bred to produce kits in 2006. Although this was up just 1.5% from the year before, it consolidated a sharp increase of 6.2% bred to produce in 2005.
If the same number of pelts per breeding is achieved this year as last, this will result in total production of 2.67 million pelts, or an increase of about 2%. However, according to veteran fur reporter Sandy Parker, a check of ranching sources in July indicated this year’s crop should be up 3-5%, based on early kit counts, weather conditions and other factors.
Consolidation Trend Continues
The total number of U.S. mink farms reporting to NASS fell in 2005, from 296 to 277, continuing a long-running trend.
In parallel with this fall, however, individual farms have steadily raised productivity as they follow the trend towards consolidation and greater efficiency seen in the U.S. farming sector as a whole. The average farm in 2005 produced 9,486 pelts, up sharply from 8,642 in 2004. Just a decade ago, in 1995, 478 farms produced an average of 5,864 pelts, and in 1985, 1,042 farms produced an average of 4,002 pelts.
The leading state by number of farms in 2005 was once again Utah, with 70. This figure had remained unchanged at 80 since 2001, but fell by 10 last year. Still in second place was Wisconsin with 67 farms, unchanged from the year before.
In terms of output, however, the rankings of Utah and Wisconsin were reversed, as in previous years. Wisconsin produced 778,000, up just 1.3% from the year before, but continuing a marked upward trend in that state going back to 2001, when it produced 672,000. Utah, meanwhile, produced 600,000 pelts in 2005, up 3.4% from the year before despite the drop in number of farms.
These two states continued their dominance of US mink production, accounting for 60% of total output, up sharply from 52.6% in 2004. The next four largest producers, Oregon, Minnesota, Idaho and Iowa, accounted for a combined 29.4%.
Black Mink Dominance Grows
Relative outputs of individual color phases by and large followed the same pattern as in previous years, but the resurgence of black (formerly known as “standard”) is now firmly established.
In 1998, black accounted for 40.5% of output, following which its relative importance declined to as low as 37% in 2002. By 2005, it had come to account for 47.6% of output, up 2.5% from the year before.
Other major colors produced were mahogany (20.8% of total output), blue iris (11.3%), demi-wild (6.3%), Sapphire (4%), and white (3.8%).