Mink is a medium sized member of the weasel family (Mustelidae) and was first raised in captivity during the Civil War in Lake Casadacka, New York. The first mink farming attempts in Canada took place during 1866-87 by Patterson Bros in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Today, mink are farmed in most provinces.
Mink are naturally aggressive animals and must be handled carefully. They bite readily and adults must be handled with thick leather mitts.
Adult mink are housed in individual wire mesh pens and it is a common farming practice to house up to 3 kits together for the first month following weaning. The mink are provided with a nest box for the breeding season.
Mink barns (or sheds) are not heated or insulated. The animals are reared under natural daylight and temperature conditions and are protected from direct sunlight and wind.
The mink is a carnivore so it requires a meat-based diet. The most common ingredients are fish filleting waste, by-products of poultry processing and slaughterhouse offal which make up 70-80% of the diet. The balance of the diet includes cereal, vitamins and minerals. In the main mink farming areas, such as Nova Scotia and Ontario, feed is prepared in central feed kitchens or on farm.
Breeding of mink takes place once a year during late February- early March. In the mink, ovulation is induced by mating and the length of pregnancy varies between 39-75 days (average of 51 days) due to a natural delay in the implantation of the fertilized eggs. The female gives birth to a litter of 1-12 kits (average of 5 or 6) during late April and early May and nurses for about 6 weeks.
The kits are weaned in June. Mink are vaccinated at about 10 weeks of age for distemper, virus enteritis, botulism and pseudomonas pneumonia. Winter fur development begins in August and the fur is fully developed (prime) in November or December when it is harvested. Mink pelts come in many natural colours, such as black (dark), mahogany, pastel, demi buff, sapphire and white.
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