Fabulous fur with Wisconsin mink
As I look back at this winter, I am thankful for my beautiful mink coat that has kept me warm and allowed me to represent one of our state’s most valuable agricultural exports.
Zimbal Mink Farm graciously donated pelts for my mink coat that the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders presented to me in September 2020. For more than 50 years, mink breeders across Wisconsin have continued the tradition of donating pelts to create a garment for each Alice in Dairyland.
In Wisconsin, the majority of farms are family-owned and operated, and mink ranches are no exception. Wisconsin mink farmers take great care of their animals so that they can keep their businesses thriving and provide a quality product. This dedication to animal care has helped position Wisconsin as the place the world comes to for high-quality mink. In fact, Wisconsin has an international reputation for producing the world’s highest quality mink.
Our state’s climate makes it the perfect place to raise mink. Winters are cold enough for mink to produce a full, high-quality coat and summers are cool enough to keep mink comfortable. All year long, Wisconsin mink are raised with great care. Mink ranchers – who are certified to humanely raise their animals – work with veterinarians and nutritionists to keep their mink safe, happy, and healthy.
Good nutrition is the key to animal health and pelt quality, and nutritionists make sure that a mink’s dietary requirements are being met as it grows and develops. Wisconsin’s processing industries provide many different scrap foods, including meat, eggs, and cheese, that are high in healthy nutrients and make excellent food for mink. Feed is mixed together and delivered to feed animals twice daily. From chicken nuggets to American cheese, mink are great recyclers!
In September 2020, I had the opportunity to tour the Zimbal Mink Farm near Sheboygan Falls to expand my knowledge about Wisconsin’s mink industry. While there on a hot day, the Zimbal family showed me how they care for their mink, and like farmers in other industries, extra efforts were taken to make sure the mink were content and comfortable. This included providing them with extra drinking water and running water across the barn roofs to cool the barns down.
Mink experience different life cycles throughout the year. They are seasonal breeders, meaning that they mate when the lighting conditions are just right in the springtime. When selecting females for breeding, it is much like many other production animal species: females are selected for maternal instincts to insure that all litters have the best care.
Females are bred once in March, and after 45 days, they whelp or give birth. Baby mink are called kits, and there are typically five to seven kits per litter. When born, the kits are only about the size of your finger. However, the kits grow quickly and are moved to new housing to give them plenty of room to comfortably grow and protect their coats. By September, they are already fully grown, and by November, they have developed their winter coats, preparing them for Wisconsin’s cold winter weather.
Mink ranchers work year-round to take great care of their animals, from the hottest of summer days to frigid winter nights. Through my travels, I have found that Wisconsin’s mink farms embody what makes Wisconsin farms so special: hardworking, dedicated families that put emphasis on quality and care for their animals. I am proud and honored to share the story of our state’s mink through the generosity of Wisconsin mink ranchers and industry professionals.
Julia Nunes is Wisconsin's 74th Alice in Dairyland