I am honored to be able to stay warm in my beautiful mink coat while representing one of our state’s most valuable agricultural exports. This year, A&M Dittrich Mink Farm graciously donated pelts for my mink coat, which I was presented with last week by the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders. For more than fifty years, mink breeders across Wisconsin have continued the tradition of donating pelts for a garment that is presented to each Alice.
This week I had the opportunity to tour A&M Mink Farm, near Medford. Their ranch specializes in dark (black) mink as well as white, palomino, mahogany, brown, silver blue and cross. This family-owned business produces some of the finest furs in the world. This is the second largest mink ranch in America. Read about their history HERE.
They showed me how they care for their mink, just as so many other Wisconsin farmers care for their livestock. Because it was such a warm day, extra efforts were taken to make sure the mink were content and comfortable, from providing them with extra drinking water to running water off of the barn roofs to cool them down.
Mink experience different life cycles throughout the year. Females are bred once in March, and after 45 days they whelp, or give birth. Baby mink are called kits, and there are usually between five to seven kits per litter. When born, the kits are only about the size of your finger. The kits grow quickly, though, and are separated to pens that house one or two mink 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.
Speaking of weather, Wisconsin’s climate makes it the perfect area to raise mink. Winters are cold enough for mink to produce a full, high-quality winter coat, and, normally, our summers are not too hot. Just like the mink at the ranch I visited, mink throughout our state are given great care year-round. Like other farm animals, mink ranchers work with veterinarians and nutritionists to keep their animals safe, happy and healthy.
Nutritionists make sure that the mink’s dietary requirements are being met as it grows and develops. Good nutrition is the key to animal health and pelt quality. Wisconsin’s processing industries provide many different scrap foods high in healthy nutrients. Meat, eggs and cheese, to name a few, 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!
Thank you to all of the hardworking mink ranchers who work year-round to take great care of their animals, from the hottest of summer days to the most frigid winter nights. A special thank you to the Mogensen family, the Van Ansem family and the entire team at A&M Dittrich Mink Farm for opening up your farm to me, sharing your story and donating the beautiful pelts for my coat. It is something I will always treasure, especially during the cold days that lie ahead.