Nfld. & Labrador

Viking Fur returns with beef farm plan in Trinity Bay

The Cavendish company endeavours to diversify into the cattle business in Trinity Bay.

Cavendish company endeavours to diversify into cattle business

The Belted Galloway breed of beef cattle is known for its high quality beef and hardiness. (Submitted by Peter Noer)

A well-known, and at times controversial, mink farming company in Trinity Bay has reapplied with the provincial government to diversify into raising local beef. 

The proposed Cavendish Beef Farm is undergoing a provincial environmental assessment, with the starting herd size estimated at 26 animals. The plan would be to eventually expand to 100 by 2023.

If approved, the Belted Galloway cattle operation would be complementary to the existing mink farm, which has been in operation since 2004, employing 45 regular workers and 40 seasonal workers.

"Instead of just oil and gas, we have to try and develop something that we can do here that is sustainable and provide something for our food industry," said co-owner Peter Noer.

The provincial government is aiming to increase food self-sufficiency from 10 per cent to 20 per cent by 2022.

Peter Noer is co-owner of Viking Fur. (Submitted by Peter Noer)

Noer believes his company can help, and said some local restaurants have already expressed interest in the ability to purchase local beef. 

"I think it's a great thing we have going for us here, and it's something we do here in this province."

The operation will not be without its challenges, like finding easy access to a slaughterhouse.

It won't get stinkier, Noer says

A near identical application was made and subsequently withdrawn due to technical issues in 2017, Noer told CBC News.

The application drew criticism from The Trinity Bay South Environmental Committee, which argued the expansion would create environmental and economic problems in the region.

The complaints surrounded flies and the smell from mink manure, which the committee said hurt tourism in the area.

"You can't have a farm without any odour. Of course, I do understand and empathize with the people who find it a nuisance that the smell is there," Noer said.

The company has met with the Town of Hearts Delight-Islington — the community north of the existing farm, and agreed to spread liquid manure on the fields when winds and weather conditions will limit the smell, the government application said. 

It means a lot more to the province than a job at the farm. - Peter Noer

Noer said the cows will not create more odour than what the mink farm already does. 

An assessment by the Farm Industry Review Board probed the mink farm in 2015 amid complaints from the public about odour coming from the company.

The review board concluded that Viking Fur was "an advanced and professionally-managed operation," but noted concerns over available land base and manure spreading. 

Viking Fur Inc. has about 80,000 mink on its farm. The company hopes to diversify into beef cattle. (CBC)

According to the application to the Department of Environment and Conservation on Jan. 30, 2019, development will include an additional 117 hectares of Crown land. Work will need to be done to clear, seed and fertilize the land for grazing and forage productions.

Viking Fur Inc. said it will use hay produced by the mink farm to feed the cattle.

"By doing this, Viking Fur Inc. will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases by eliminating the transportation of produced forage for their operation," the application said.

Noer said the cattle operation would create a couple of jobs, but he is looking at the bigger picture of sustainability.

"It means a lot more to the province than a job at the farm."

The province is accepting public comments and feedback on the environmental impact statement guidelines, and Noer said he is welcoming feedback from neighbours and the larger community.

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About the Author

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.

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