Bentley Turtle Farms: A US Exporter’s Perspective on the International Turtle Market
Bentley Turtle Farms: A US Exporter’s Perspective on the International Turtle Market
It is good to be here with you at GIAS 2017 among fellow breeders, enthusiasts, and reptile businesses. My name is Matthew Bradford, and I am the farm and export manager for one of the largest wholesale turtle producer and exporters in the United States. My family has been in the turtle business for over 20 years, and produces over 20 unique species native to North America. Gary Bentley, my father in-law, started our business, and since then we have exported millions of baby turtles to China and the rest of the world for both the pet and food markets.
Our farm is located in a beautiful area of North Alabama and is in a key area to produce a quality baby turtle. There are over 35 different ponds separated by species. We are continuing to expand production, to bring larger quantities of unique species to the international pet markets. For those that do not know, in the US, the farms are generally smaller and specialize in a few species. Alabama is in a good location to pull from many different types of species and from smaller farmers around the southeast.
As an intro to our farm I will take you thru a breeding season. Many of you are familiar with large scale turtle breeding, but some of you may not be.
▪ There are a tremendous amount of small details that go into running a turtle farm. Turtle production has three main seasons: Hibernation Season, Laying Season, and Hatching Season. Hibernation season is our time to prepare for the next years production and sell pet turtles from last years production. Turtles bury in the mud during the winter and get oxygen from the water.
▪ Laying season is our busiest season of the year. Just like many other farmers there is only one chance a year to "get it right." Laying begins slowly in the late spring until we reach a peak gathering tens of thousands of eggs a day. Over the years our workers have become very efficient at finding the nest and collecting the eggs. Once the eggs are gathered into the incubation boxes they are placed in our hatchery.
▪ Hatching season is a very exciting time on the turtle farm. Turtle incubation lasts from 60 to 120 days depending on the species and temperature of incubation. When the turtles begin to hatch they start slowly just like when they were laid. Hatching increases until turtles are hatching everyday, all day. Our farm knows the value of not only hatching a turtle, but hatching a strong healthy baby turtle to best increase interest in turtles as pets.
Care and Exporting
Once the eggs begin to hatch in large amounts our business focuses on the care, growth, and exporting of the turtle hatchlings. Our pet turtle hatchlings are cared for until exporting; large amounts of exporting take place in the months of July through October as the turtles hatch. Turtles are kept in clean water and fed a variety of pellets, proteins, and vegetables in our facilities totaling over 3000 square meters. Each turtle is different in its requirements for a healthy life which makes this market exciting and challenging.
Our focus on quality has pushed us to provide what is needed throughout a hatchling’s development. Our goal is not merely keep the turtle alive, but provide what is necessary for growth. This greatly increases the chances that the turtle will live a long life bringing more enjoyment to the pet owner.
The challenges of exporting and importing are great, but also very rewarding. The logistics involved in shipping and receiving wholesale live animals require attention to many details. Weather conditions in all ports and plane changes, possible airport delays, overall timing, paperwork involved for US and China including CITES permits, and each turtle’s unique needs before, during, and after shipping. All of these things must be considered closely for a successful export to take place.
International Market Over the Past 20 Years
The international supply of turtles is impacted by many factors. The supply and demand of turtles in the US and China is greatly affected by weather conditions, available breeders, ease of breeding, new laws, economic conditions, etc. For instance, many US farmers are beginning to retire with fewer young people taking their place. I am one of the very few people below 35 years old in a market that is still expanding. Wholesale market prices can change for each turtle every year, and can change throughout each season based on demand.
As an example, 20 years ago our farm was one of the first, if not the first, to begin research and production of Common Snapper (Chelydra Serpentina) hatchlings for the Chinese meat markets. Our meat turtle hatchlings are high quality; being larger and growing faster because of our geographical location and low stress breeding methods. Shipping of these turtles normally happens quickly to facilitate growers here, especially in southern China. Three years ago however, over supply and law changes created a major fall in the price of Chelydra Serpentina. Many farms were started in the US and China to raise this species, but now many of these farms are out of business and have sold their adult breeders to food markets. This may cause shortages and a price increase again because of the difficulties in captive breeding this species in the US and China.
Over the past 15 years our business has steadily taken a more diversified approach with the strong emergence of the Chinese pet turtle market. In North America our farm again was on the leading of edge of this being one of the first major producers of the Common Musk (Sternotherus Odoratus). We helped to develop markets around the world with the introduction of large wholesale quantities of this turtle. The value of this turtle has been very consistent around the world as are most musk and mud turtles because of their small adult size, ease of care, and breeding enjoyment. Our pet turtle hatchlings are also generally larger than in other geographical locations of the US because of weather conditions that create less eggs and stronger hatchlings.
Over the past 10 years many other species have been marketed successfully by our farm in the large wholesale markets around the world. These species are available in larger numbers because of a high amount of breeders available in US markets. The following species have been very popular not only in China, but in Korea, Japan, and European markets:
− The banning of all Trachemys species in Europe has seen the rise in value of Graptemys Pseudogeographica Kohni and Pseudemys Concinna species. This has created a huge wholesale demand for these species.
− The unique coloration of the Chrysemys Picta Dorsalis and Picta has kept it popular in markets around the world.
− The extreme uniqueness among musk turtles of Sternotherus Carninatus has kept its demand up in markets everywhere.
− The small size and interesting mix of aquatic turtle and land tortoise has made Kinosternon Subrubrum popular as well.
− And I think you have all seen Macrochelys Temminckii, which in my opinion is the closest thing we have to a dinosaur in existence today.
Recent International Market
The most exciting changes have happened in the past 5 years with the increasing demand of higher value pet turtles in the Chinese markets; including turtles that we have learned to breed. These turtles are available in smaller amounts due to a restricted amount of obtainable breeders. Again, our farm is striving to meet market demand before it changes, and provide high quality, unique pet turtles for enthusiasts and breeders. The following are some of the high value turtles that we are excited to provide:
− The bright red underbelly of the omnivorous Northern Red Belly Turtle (Pseudemys Rubriventris) has caused it to be highly rated. It is the most popular of all Pseudemys species in North America.
− The Northern Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys Terrapin Terrapin) is one of the most celebrated of American turtles, with its concentric rings and spotted head. It is unique because of the brackish water conditions that it requires, and has become highly sought after in the international market.
− One of the smallest, and most enjoyable species to keep, Three Striped Mud Turtles (Kinosternon Baurii), are very active, and forage endlessly along the bottom of their tank. With the normal adult size only slightly over 10 cm, these are one of the world's smallest turtles.
− The 3 keeled, Loggerhead Musk Turtle (Sternotherus Minor) is much more rare than many other species of Musk turtle. With an oversized head used for eating mollusks it is a very distinct pet, and very popular.
− The Tiger Musk Turtle (Sternotherus Minor Peltifer) is the rarest of all legal Sternotherus species, due to its unusual habitat of smaller fast moving creeks and streams. Often bred by hobbyists with other musk turtles for beautiful variations. It is one of the most highly sought after turtles for its rarity and striped neck.
− The Black Knobbed Sawbacks (Graptemys Nigrinoda Nigrinoda and Delticola) live only in the interconnecting waterways draining thru part of Alabama. It is extremely rare, and with its attractive carapace features is one of the most distinctive North American species.
These uncommon species and many others are helping to meet the demand for a high value fascinating pet in the China reptile market. We have been business partners with many in China, working together with our Chinese counterparts to help the pet turtle market to thrive. It is my goal to continue the advancement of this industry, and provide more unique quality turtles to your markets. We welcome the opportunity to make long business relationships with those of you involved in the turtle trade. We are happy to be a part of this growing market, and hope to continue for many years to come.
If you have questions or would like to contact me please do so thru firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.alabamaturtlefarmer.com If you would like to meet please speak to me today or contact me thru my WeChat Number 12567107773
如果您有其他的疑问，或者想与我联系，请通过我们的邮箱bentleyturtles@gmail.com 或者我们的官网 www.alabamaturtlefarmer.com来与我们详谈。如果您想要进行面谈，请抓紧此刻的机会，或加我的微信12567107773。
Thank you for your time.
Farm and export manager for Bentley Turtle Farm. Responsible for the breeding and rearing of turtles for the wholesale or retail trade. Turtle farming is an intensive animal husbandry business. The work involves managing and maintaining turtle habitats throughout the year, taking care of stock health and welfare issues, feeding the turtles, manage the exporting and shipping process, and attend reptile and pet exhibitions around the world to market and increase interest in turtles as pets.
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