Crop Approach New Highs; Females Bred Up Sharply
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 2004 (Click here for the latest NASS stats – PDF format).
Released on July 15, 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 data 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 2000 – 2004, the number of U.S. mink farms fell by 16%, while average pelt production per farm rose 14%.
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.
According to NASS, mink production in the US rose only slightly in 2004 to 2.56 million pelts, up from 2.55 million, but the value of the crop surged 21% to $124 million. The previous year’s crop, in turn, was up 28% in value.
The average pelt price in 2004 stood at $48.40, the second highest ever, compared with $40.10 the year before and $30.60 the year before that. The record high was set back in 1995, when the average pelt fetched $53.1. The average price over the five-year period 2000-04 was $37.26.
Pelts Per Female Bred Edging Higher
Female mink bred to produce kits in 2004 totaled 604,800, for an average of 4.24 pelts per breeding. This represented a small increase over the year-before level, 4.22, and continues a general and gradual upward trend. In 2000, 4.16 kits were produced per breeding.
Although uncontrollable factors such as weather can impact the survivability of litters, this steady increase over the years is a clear example of how the highest 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 642,100 female mink were bred to produce kits in 2005, up a sharp 6.2% from the year before. If the same number of pelts per breeding is achieved as last year, this will result in total production of 2.72 million pelts.
Consolidation Trend Continues
Continuing a long-running trend, the total number of U.S. mink farms reporting to NASS fell in 2004, from 305 to 296.
In parallel with this trend, 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 2004 produced 8,659 pelts, up from 8,303 in 2003. Just a decade ago, in 1994, 484 farms produced an average 5,419 pelts, and in 1984, 1,084 farms produced an average 3,893 pelts.
The leading state by number of farms in 2004 was once again Utah, with 80, unchanged since 2001. Still in second place was Wisconsin with 67 farms, down two from the year before.
In terms of output, however, the rankings of Utah and Wisconsin were reversed, as in previous years. Wisconsin produced 768,000, up 9% from the year before and continuing a sharp upward trend in that state going back to 2001, when it produced 672,000. Utah, meanwhile, produced 580,000 pelts in 2004, down 10,000 from the year before.
These two states continued their dominance of US mink production, accounting for 52.6% of total output, up from 50.8% in 2003. The next four largest producers, Oregon, Minnesota, Idaho and Iowa, accounted for a combined 30.2%.
Black Mink Now Dominant
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. In 2004, it rose fully 4.9% to account for 45.1% of output.