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Cavendish farm plans to go big into beef

The site of Viking Furs.
The site of Viking Furs.

The owner of a fur farm in Cavendish plans to diversify his business by expanding into cattle farming.

The plan for the Viking Fur farm is more specifically to grow to 100 head of cattle and move from 160 acres of land leased at present (73 acres in production) to 300 acres.

The plan also includes new cold storage to support the farm’s existing mink fur operation and its 15,000 female breeders.

It is all now under environmental assessment.

Peter Noer, president of Viking Fur, told The Telegram the expansion will do double duty — making the farm a more diversified and sustainable business, while helping the province step toward its goal of increasing food self-sufficiency from 10 per cent to at least 20 per cent by 2022.


Belted beef

Noer said he completed extensive research in deciding on southwest Scotland’s Belted Galloway for expanding the farm, given its performance on the available diet and experience in a similar climate.

“I think it will be the right species of cattle to introduce here to Newfoundland,” he said.

To be sure, he brought in a small number of Belted Galloway from Nova Scotia last fall.

The Viking farm herd currently stands at 17 animals, including five calves. Noer’s hope is to go to 20 to 30 animals in 2018. If the expansion plan is approved, he could eventually grow to 100 head.


The cod conundrum

Cold storage is a significant piece of the puzzle.

The mink operation already takes what would otherwise be dumped waste from fish processing and Noer uses it in food for his mink. It is a common practice with fur farms, with chicken byproduct another popular feed source.

The fish and chicken processing byproduct is kept in cold storage, but storage space on the island is pricey and increasingly scarce. And no one is too keen to save room for mink food.

On top of this, with all of the talk of the return of codfish and a desire within the provincial fishery to expand cod production, Noer said he sees developing his own cold storage — roughly 55 metres by 30 metres — as a proactive move. It will allow him to get ahead of an even greater crunch on space.

He currently helps with food supply for other farmers and said the cold storage space would be a boon to more than just his farm.


Federation of Agriculture support

The Viking Fur farm has received criticism in the past about flies and the smell from mink manure. Noer invested more than $2 million to install a manure management system on the farm in 2014 and is highly conscious of the significance to the public.

In 2015, company plans to establish a second fur farm off the Argentia Access Road were turned down on the heels of negative public response, with concerns about smell commonly cited.

Manure is used on the main farm, one to two kilometres from the nearest neighbour. Under the expansion plan, manure will help with hay growth on added acreage.

Fellow farmer Merv Wiseman, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture, said the plan allows Noer to avoid reliance on mainland purchases for mink feed and cattle feed.

“This is a perfect example of how we’re going to meet these (government) targets and achieve the goals and objectives for all of that,” Wiseman said.

The farm’s plan was registered for environmental assessment on Aug. 28. Public comments are due by Oct. 3, with a decision from the minister or request for further information by Oct. 12.

Noer told The Telegram anyone interested in seeing the farm for themselves is welcome to contact the farm and a tour can be arranged.

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