Wisconsin farmers, ranchers, and processors are leaders in global agriculture production, helping to feed, fuel, and clothe communities around the world. Not only do we reap the benefits of quality Wisconsin goods here in our backyard, but consumers in nearly 145 countries see Wisconsin products on their shelves. In 2018, Wisconsin ranked first among the United States for the export of ginseng roots, preserved cranberries, bovine semen and mink pelts.
Wisconsin mink farmers, specifically, have an international reputation for raising the highest quality mink in the world. Our state’s climate makes Wisconsin the perfect place to raise mink. Winters are cold enough for mink to produce a full, high-quality winter coat and our summers are not too hot. Year-round, mink throughout Wisconsin are given great care. Like other farm animals, mink ranchers work with veterinarians and nutritionists to keep their animals safe, happy and healthy.
As consumers look for greater transparency from all of agriculture, mink farmers have recognized this need and have been certified for raising their mink to humane standards. In 1985, the United States mink farmers implemented the first humane care standards program for any mink producing county in the world. Updated regularly, these standards promote best management practices and responsible animal stewardship.
The neatest part about our Wisconsin mink? They’re recyclers! A large part of the mink diet is food by-product not fit for human consumption. Wisconsin’s many processing industries partner with our breeders to utilize waste food products like meat, fish, liver, eggs, cheese and other products. Their specially formulated diet is mixed fresh and fed daily to the mink. As our state’s natural recyclers, mink keep food waste from entering landfills.
After the high-quality pelts are removed, carcasses are repurposed by pet food companies or for crab bait. An important secondary product is the highly-valued oil produced from the mink’s thick layer of subcutaneous fat. According to the Fur Commission USA, mink oil is used to condition and preserve leather, and also in the manufacturing of hypoallergenic facial oils and cosmetics. In a time when sustainability is top of mind for farmers and processors, the Wisconsin mink breeders present a model industry for our state to be proud of.
Not only are Wisconsin mink garments ideal for staying warm during the cold Wisconsin winter months, but they are beautiful to wear. A mink has short guard hairs, giving coats and hats a sleek look. Opposite of a mink fur would be fox, known for their long guard hairs. Mink fur is also extremely soft. The softness of a fur is directly related to the density of its hairs. A mink has 24,000 hairs per centimeter squared. In comparison, the density of hair on your head is approximately 190 hairs per centimeter squared.
For more than 50 years, the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders Association has continued the tradition of donating a garment that is presented to each Alice in Dairyland. This year, the Halbach Mink Ranch graciously donated pelts for my mink coat. Everywhere I go, the beauty of the coat is admired by strangers I meet during my travels, and I am proud to say it is genuine Wisconsin mink.
Alice in Dairyland Abigail Martin can be reached at DATCP, 2811 Agriculture Drive, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, WI 53718 or DATCPAlice@wisconsin.gov.