Fur Farming and Industry

Fur farming is a small industry in Saskatchewan which raises primarily fox. The majority of the pelts exported from the province are harvested from the wild; the Canadian ranch-raised fur production is located in the eastern and Atlantic provinces. Most of the Canadian fur garment manufacturing industry is centred in Montreal, representing approximately 80%, and in Toronto. The major fur-dressing facilities are located in Winnipeg and Montreal, with the three largest Canadian fur auction facilities being located in Toronto, North Bay and Vancouver. In Saskatchewan, an annual license is required from the Department of Agriculture in order to establish or operate a fur farm, or trade in fur animals or products. Licensed operators are required to follow the provisions of the Fur Farming Regulations. Trapping wild fur-bearers is regulated by Saskatchewan Environment.

Various national producer associations have established codes of practice and grading systems for their respective species. These rancher associations are also involved in sales coordination, promotion, education, and industry advocacy. Most fox and mink used in the fur trade are raised on farms; these animals have been raised for decades, generation after generation, like other domestic livestock. Feed for farmed mink and fox is either a prepared ration, produced by commercial animal feed companies, or produced with leftovers from abattoirs, fish plants, and other food processing sectors along with grains, depending upon availability and location.

Diets vary according to the season and breeding cycle of fur-bearers. To make birthing easier, a low-fat diet is fed in the spring when the animals are breeding, and kept low through gestation until whelping in May-June. The diet of nursing females is made richer to encourage milk production and subsequently improve the growth rates of their litter. In the fall, fat is added once again to the diet to improve fur-growth. The litter size varies with the species; however, there are typically four or five kits born. Breeding occurs in the early spring (February-March), and the kits are born in early summer (May-June). The young are weaned after about six to eight weeks, and are then vaccinated. They moult in early fall in preparation for the winter, and begin developing their winter fur. The pelts are harvested in mid-winter when prime (November-December). Fur ranching is complementary with other agricultural operations. The majority of work occurs during the winter months when other farm work is typically reduced. Straw from crops can be used as bedding and cage insulation, while the accumulated manure may be used as a fertilizer.

Raymond Nixdorf