US Mink Production Edges Up, Auction Prices Rebound Strongly
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture has issued its latest annual report on mink production in the US, up to the 2009 crop year, sold at auction in February and May of 2010. (Click here for the latest NASS stats – PDF format.)
Released on July 9, 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.
According to NASS, mink production in the US totaled 2.86 million pelts in 2009, up 1.2% from 2.82 million the year before. This was the second-largest annual crop this century, surpassed only by the 2.87 million pelts harvested in 2006. Between 2000 and 2009, annual output averaged 2.69 million. The 3 million mark was last achieved back in 1991.
Auction prices, meanwhile, have rebounded with gusto from the depressed prices of last year, when all buyers took heed of the global economic turmoil, and those representing the major fur market of Russia hardly showed up at all.
When the 2009 crop came under the hammer this spring, it earned $185.9 million, up a fraction from the highest earner ever, 2007, when the crop yielded $185.8 million. It was also up a precipitous 58% from $117.3 million a year ago.
The average price for US pelts also rose, to $65.10 from $41.60 the year before, but failed by just 60 cents to match the record of $65.70 set in 2007. Meanwhile, the average price over the five-year period 2005-09 came to $56.28, up 52.1% from the $37.00 average over the preceding five years.
Pelts Per Breeding Bounce Back
Females bred to produce kits in 2009 totaled 674,200, for an average of 4.23 kits per breeding surviving to pelting time. This was up from 4.03 in 2008, and close to a recent high of 4.37 set in 2006.
Meanwhile, NASS reports that the number of females bred to produce kits in 2010 is down slightly at 670,200. If the same number of pelts per breeding is achieved this year as last (4.23), this will result in total production of 2.83 million pelts, or a drop of about 0.7% from 2009.
Farm Numbers, Productivity Stabilizing
Starting in the late 1980s, the number of mink farms in the US began falling sharply, but those that remained became increasingly efficient through economies of scale such as merging with other farms, and pooling resources in feed and processing cooperatives. Advances in animal husbandry, meanwhile, resulted in higher survival rates among kits, and pelts that were both better quality and larger.
NASS data do not reflect farm mergers or changes in pelt size, but are still good indicators of the contraction and consolidation phase of the industry, and improvements in productivity.
Between 1990 and 2005, the total number of farms reporting to NASS fell from 771 to just 275. Since then, their numbers have fluctuated in a narrow range. In 2009, 278 farms reported to NASS, up from 274 the year before.
The trend in productivity over the same period has been quite the reverse. In 1990, the average farm produced just 4,366 pelts. By 2000, that number had risen to 7,617. And in 2009, it stood at 10,272.
This was actually down an insignificant 22 pelts from the year before, suggesting a plateau may finally have been reached. But the longer-term trend has been unmistakable. Even over the most recent five-year period, 2005-2009, as opportunities for greater efficiency became more fully exploited, average pelt production per farm rose 7.05% while the number of farms rose just 1.1%.
Wisconsin, Utah Continue Domination
Wisconsin remained the country’s leading pelt producer in 2009, having held the top spot since before the turn of the century. However, it saw output fall for the second year in a row. In 2009, it produced 886,100 pelts, down from 908,000 the year before. A leveling off has therefore occurred following a period of expansion that began in 2001 (672,000) and peaked in 2007 (914,100).
Meanwhile the margin between Wisconsin and its closest rival has narrowed. After two years of decline, Utah boosted output in 2009 by 11.6% to 613,500 pelts. Its highest output this century was achieved in 2006, with 622,890 pelts.
These two states continued their long-standing domination of US mink production, accounting for 52.5% of total output, up 0.7% from the year before. The next four largest producers, Oregon, Minnesota, Idaho, and Iowa, accounted for a combined 31.6%.
Black Mink Popularity Steadies
Relative outputs of individual color phases by and large followed the same pattern as in previous years, while growth in the dominance of black (formerly known as standard) has finally leveled off.
In 1998, black accounted for 40.5% of output, following which its relative importance declined to as low as 37% in 2002. It then began to rise steadily, to 53.7% in 2008. In 2009, it fell back just a shade, to 52.3%.
Other major colors produced in 2009 were mahogany at 23.2% of the total, blue iris 9.9%, demi/wild 4.3%, and sapphire 3.6%.