Prices Rebound Strongly for US Mink Farmers, Production Slips
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 2003 (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 1999 – 2003, the number of U.S. mink farms fell by 23%, while average pelt production per farm rose by 17%.
A sharp increase in the value of the crop also reflects the resurgence of interest in fur, and subsequent competition by clothing manufacturers for limited supplies of pelts.
According to NASS, a total of 2.55 million mink pelts was produced in the US in 2003, compared with 2.61 million in 2002, a 2.2% drop. However, the value of the crop rose a sharp 28% from the year before, from $79.8 million to $102.2 million. This was the first time the value of America’s mink crop had topped $100 million since the exceptional year of 1995 ($148.8 million).
The average pelt price in 2003 stood at $40.10. This compared with just $30.60 a year before, and an average of $34.34 over the five-year period 1999 – 2003.
Pelts Per Female Bred Continue Rising
Female mink bred to produce kits in 2003 totaled 603,400, for an average of 4.22 pelts per breeding.
This impressive result continued a general upward trend. In 2002, 4.18 pelts were produced per breeding, following on from 4.07 in 2001 and 4.16 in 2000.
Although uncontrollable factors such as weather can impact the survivability of litters, the general trend has been upwards, 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.
NASS notes that 604,800 female mink were bred to produce kits in 2004, up 0.2% from last year. If the same number of pelts per breeding is achieved as last year, this will result in total production of 2.55 million pelts.
Continuing a long-running trend, the total number of U.S. mink farms reporting to NASS fell in 2003, from 324 to 307.
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 2003 produced 8,303 pelts, up sharply from 8,046 pelts in 2002, and 7,796 the year before that. Just a decade ago, in 1993, 523 farms produced an average 5,009 pelts, and in 1983, 1,098 farms produced an average 3,767 pelts.
The leading state by number of farms in 2003 was once again Utah, with 80, unchanged from the previous year. Still in second place behind Utah was Wisconsin with 69 farms, also unchanged, and Minnesota with 31, down from 33.
In terms of output, the rankings of Utah and Wisconsin were reversed, as in previous years. Wisconsin produced 706,300 pelts in 2003, up from 685,000 the year before, while Utah produced 590,000 pelts, up from 575,000.
These two states continued their dominance of the US fur farm sector, accounting for 50.85% of total output, up from 48% in 2002. The next three largest producers, Oregon, Minnesota and Idaho, accounted for a combined 26.9%.
Black Mink Regaining Strength
Relative outputs of individual color phases by and large followed the same pattern as in previous years, with Black (formerly known as “Standard”) accounting for fully 40.2% of output.
It is worth noting, however, that Black’s dominance was slipping in recent years. In 2002, it accounted for 37.08% of output, and only now is it returning to a level last seen in 1998, when it accounted for 40.55%.