Nfld. & Labrador

A little beef with your fur? Controversial Cavendish mink farm planning expansion

A controversial mink farm in Trinity Bay is expanding its boundaries, and venturing into the cattle farming business.

Trinity South farm venturing into cattle farming; owner says stench won't go away

Viking Fur in Cavendish, Trinity Bay, has operated a mink farm since 2004. The company now has plans to venture into cattle farming. (File Pictures / CBC)

A controversial mink farm in Trinity Bay wants to expand its boundaries — and get into beef.

Viking Fur says it needs to grow in order to better dispose of vast quantities of liquid manure, and also has plans to do its part for food security in this province by venturing into the cattle farming business.

The company has been operating near the small Newfoundland community of Cavendish since 2004, but has drawn constant criticism from people living in the region, with complaints ranging from the putrid stench in the air to escaping animals and clouds of flies.

Viking Fur is now seeking approval from the provincial environment department to expand its geographic footprint in order to better dispose of large quantities of liquid manure from about 15,000 mink, and to begin beef production with the establishment of a herd of some 100 cows.

Owner Peter Noer said Wednesday there are no plans to expand the number of mink on the farm, but he said there's a good opportunity in cattle farming.

"We think it could be a good new business to go into," Noer said.

The provincial government has a goal of increasing food production in the province, and Noer wants to be part of that strategy.

Peter Noer is the owner of Viking Fur, which operates a mink farm in Cavendish, Trinity Bay. ((CBC))

The province's federation of agriculture estimates that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians spend roughly $200 million on beef products annually, nearly all of which is imported from other provinces or countries.

Details of the company's plans are included in its submission to the provincial government, with public comments invited until Oct. 3, with Environment Minister Eddie Joyce expected to make a decision by Oct. 12.

The operation currently has 73 acres of cleared and developed agricultural land, but the company says it requires 300 acres in order to meet the guidelines for spreading manure and creating pasture land for that number of cattle.

No relief from stench

Area residents hoping for some relief from the stench may be disappointed, however.

"I won't say it's going to cut down on the smell, but it's not going to create more smell either," Noer said.

"When you're passing a farm that's that size as we have, or any other kind of farming, you will have a smell to that farm. There will be certain times when wind and weather is non-favourable."

The expansion also includes the construction of a new cold storage facility to handle the large amounts of fish and chicken byproducts shipped to the farm and used for animal feed.

The company is making the investment at a time when the mink industry is slumping badly, with pelt prices at their lowest in many years.

Noer said the availability of low-cost feed for the animals is helping keep the business afloat.

"We're fighting every day to survive," he said, adding that mink production in Nova Scotia has fallen by 50 per cent in recent years.

About the Author

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.