Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Aleutian Disease Research Program Update

Did you know?  

·       The AD Research Program has five milestones that must be completed by September 2013.  These include status of the ADV infection and the success of the AD-control programs in NS; accurate detection of the virus in the environment and the live animal; and the development of a resistant mink.  All milestones will be completed. The development of a vaccine was NOT part of the current program.  
·       The AD Research Centre (ADRC) has been operating since December 2009 and more than 1500 mink have been inoculated with one strain of the AD virus.  This work is unique in the world because of the number of animals being studied under one roof in a controlled environment.  These mink continue to be monitored for performance and sampled for the presence (or absence) of both antibodies (CIEP) and the virus (PCR).

·       More than 95% of mink in the ADRC are positive for viral antibody (tested by CIEP) but the majority are negative for the virus in the blood (tested by PCR).  Negative for virus in the blood does not imply that the animal is free of the virus.  It just means that the virus is not replicating at the time of sampling. This is an extremely important finding as we develop the best tool(s) to use in breeder selection.
·      This is genetic research which means that the research needs to take place over several generations.  We are currently working with our second generation of kits born to inoculated mink. 

·       Ninety two percent of the mink genome has been sequenced in 104 samples and 8 different ADV types have so far been identified.   This information would help us to monitor sources or the movement of the AD virus among ranches, and to develop more accurate PCR tests.

·      Work is now underway to analyze the massive amounts of sequence data collected after inoculating mink with the AD virus (ADV). Using supercomputers, the data are being analyzed, and the information will be used to identify what genes are turned on or off by the virus  

·      The Aleutian Disease Research Program receives advice from the mink AD Research Management Board (ADRMB) made up of representatives from industry (ranchers), Dalhousie University and the research team
·      This research will have accomplished the first steps in what was set out to do by the research team and the AD Management Board.  However, there is more to do.  There is not a true understanding of how ADV works in the body of the mink but we are learning more every day.
·      The AD Management Board, Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture and the Research team remain committed to gathering information and finding answers to many questions surrounding this disease.  Communication of results will come forward to the industry as they become available

For more information, contact Dr. Hossain Farid at (902) 893-6727
or or Jeff Gunn at (902) 396 8494 or

Submitted by Jeff Gunn, AD Project Manager

Nov. 27, 2012 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Atlantic Mink Production Short Course

Perennia and the Dalhousie University Faculty of  Agriculturre are pleased to partner to bring you the Atlantic Mink Production Short Course, Jan. 14-17, 2013.

This course has been developed for mink ranchers and employees with up to 5 years of mink industry expereince, but new entrants and more experienced ranchers are welcome.  

Enrollment is limited to 30 participants, so if you're interested, I encourage you to get your registration in asap.

Registration information and a shortcourse brochure are available by clicking on this link:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Does your Ranch have Solid Veterinary Advice?

The 10th International Scientific Congress in fur animal production was held Aug. 21-14 in Copenhagen, Denmark. A preconference workshop for veterinarians was held just prior to the congress attracting veterinarians from all over the fur producing world. CMBA encouraged the participation of several veterinarians from North America. Dr. Dave MacHattie from Middleton Veterinarian Services, Dr.Randall Bishop from Cornwallis Veterinarians Ltd. and Dr. Gord Finley, CMBA Consultant all attended from Nova Scotia. In addition, Dr. John Easley and Dr. Hugh Hildebrand from Wisconsin, Dr. Ken Johnson from Manitoba and OVC staff also participated.
The workshop provided an excellent networking opportunity for vets working in the mink industry and allowed them a rare opportunity to get further training from Danish vets specializing in mink pathology. Over the next few months I would encourage you to chat with one of the NS vets. They brought home some great ideas.

Here in NS there is a Mink Ranch Health Program available through the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture to encourage mink breeders to utilize the professional services of a veterinarian, on a regular basis, for the maintenance and improvement of ranch mink health, through the application of the principles of bio-security and preventative medicine.  Although a few ranchers are currently taking advantage of the program, many more could benefit from it. For more information, click  In addition, the  NSDA has a pathologist, Dr. Carolyn Legge,  in the Path Lab in Bible Hill who can work with your local vet to diagnose specific disease pathogens and health issues that you may face on your ranch. 

The new Code of Practice for mink is expected to be finalized late this fall. Ranchers can expect a requirement in the code that producers establish a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship. Although few veterinarians in NS are actively involved in mink production, it is important that ranchers have a herd vet to call on, both for regular herd health visits and for emergencies. The CMBA recognizes the shortage of qualified vets practicing in Mink, and is actively working towards solutions to the shortage. In the meantime, be aware that both Dr. John Easley and Dr. Hugh Hildebrand in Wisconsin and Dr. Gord Finley are all still available for consultation when your local vet is not.

For more information, contact Nancy        

Group Housing in Juvenile Mink

It is common practice on mink farms to group house juvenile mink from when they are weaned in early June until they reach adulthood in November. In the wild, mink are a solitary animal.  They live with their mother and littermates from birth until the mother drives them away once they can fend for themselves. From this point on they live independently and only socialize with other mink in their breeding season in March.
Due to this there are some concerns when it comes to group housing mink on farms, primarily fighting amongst mink which can lead to wounds that can impact animal health and welfare, as well as the final pelt product.  Wounds on the mink will cause damage to the pelt and as a result sell for less money at auction.

It is common to see between 2 and 4 juvenile mink housed per cage on commercial farms. Recent studies (in Denmark)  have looked into comparing bite marks and wounds on mink housed in pairs in standard sized cages (90cm L x 30cm W x 45cm H) and mink housed in groups of four in larger cages which provide almost double the space of standard cages.  It has been discovered that even with larger cage sizes, larger groups of mink will fight more amongst themselves than mink housed in pairs.

This shows that it benefits both the health and welfare of the mink to house them in pairs versus larger groups of mink when space permits.  This will reduce the amount of biting amongst siblings and therefore open wounds found on the mink (and damages on the pelt), benefitting both the mink and farmer.

Contributed by Sandi Crowell, Crowell’s Fur Farm
Sandi is a recent graduate of the NSAC (B.Sc. Animal Science) and had the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen in August to attend IFASA.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Superphosphates – not in mink feed!

An odd question came up in reference to a comment made in the media by someone concerned about phosphorus from mink ranches. That person indicated that mink ranchers put superphosphates in mink feed, suggesting that it was a major source of water course pollution from mink ranches.
I’d like to help set the record straight. Superphosphate is not put in feeds that I'm aware of. I'd be very surprised to find someone trying it. It is a chemical fertilizer for crops and gardens.
However, phosphoric acid is a common additive, used as a preservative and to reduce pH at certain times of the year.  pH below 6 will help reduce the microbial load in ingredients like fish, chicken, and pork byproducts. It has been used by generations of ranchers across the country and is very effective for its intended purpose. The amount of acid required to drop the pH is not very high (0.4-0.5 % of the wet ration).  Phosphoric acid is a food/feed ingredient approved for use for humans as well as livestock. Check the label on your can of Pepsi! 
Years ago, phosphates were the buzz word for detergents in water pollution.  I suspect someone  confused the term phosphoric acid with superphosphate, probably because the term superphosphate has such negative connotations with regards to water. If superphosphates per se have been found to be polluting the watercourses in south western Nova Scotia, then home and cottage owners, landscapers, golf courses, tree nurseries, parks and other users of chemical fertilizers better review their fertility programs!  
Definition of Superphospate:  

superphosphate [ˌsuːpəˈfɒsfeɪt]: n 1. (Chemistry / Elements & Compounds) a mixture of the diacid calcium salt of orthophosphoric acid Ca(H2PO4)2 with calcium sulphate and small quantities of other phosphates: used as a fertilizer 2. (Chemistry / Elements & Compounds) a salt of phosphoric acid formed by incompletely replacing its acidic hydrogen atoms; acid phosphate; hydrogen phosphate

Trust that helps to set the record straight.


Code of Practice for mink-updated

Ottawa) 09 October 2012 – The draft Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Mink is now available for public comment. The Canada Mink Breeders Association (CMBA) and the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) are pleased to announce the launch of the 60-day public comment period, which will conclude December 7, 2012.

The draft Code can be viewed and submissions made through NFACC’s web site at Anyone can provide comments and suggestions on the Code, but all submissions must be made through the online system and follow the instructions provided.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Eggs (and Biotin) for Mink

Eggs are the highest quality protein there is for mink and for people too. The trouble with eggs is that they contain a substance called avidin which binds to biotin making it unavailable to the mink. Symptoms of biotin deficiency start to show up fairly quickly in growing/ furring mink if there is insufficient biotin getting to them. The biggest issue is serious changes to the skin and hair: grey fur, banding of the fur, hair loss especially around the eyes “spectacle” eyes, dermatitis (scaly skin), eye infections, crusty feet, etc.

There was a feeding trial done at NSAC in 1995 looking at eggs- raw, cooked, fried and powdered, with and without egg shells. The results suggested 5-15% raw eggs with shells is acceptable. Other references I’ve found indicate much the same. However, when formulating mink rations with raw eggs, the diet requires 0.125 mg added biotin/kg of feed.

A typical bag of biotin premix has a concentration of 220 mg biotin/kg of premix. A feeding rate of 0.57 kg of premix per tonne of wet ration will give you the 0.125 mg biotin/kg wet feed that you are looking for. If you formulate based on pounds, that is 0.57 pounds of premix per 1000 pounds of wet feed. If your biotin premix is a higher or lower concentration (not 220 mg/kg) you will need to calculate accordingly.

Biotin premix is typically available from feed companies or farm supply stores. If you know you will need several bags to meet your requirements, it is best to order in advance, as it’s not a product often carried in large quantities. Because biotin premixes are so concentrated, I recommend that you first mix the 0.57 kg into a 5 -10 kg pail with cereal, and then blend that with the rest of your dry ingredients, to ensure an even distribution throughout the feed.

Offal from poultry breeders, especially turkeys, can have a similar affect on biotin. If you’re feeding spent hens in addition to eggs, you could really run into trouble. Turkeys are a much bigger issue than chickens though. On the other hand, liver is an excellent source of biotin, so if you’re feeding liver, it could help negate the effects of the eggs. Biotin is a B Vitamin, produced by bacteria in the digestive tract of the animal, so antibiotics can also interfere with biotin production. Cooked eggs do not create the same problem.

If eggs are boiled for 5 minutes at 91 ̊C, the cooking disrupts the avidin. Powdered eggs may or may not be problematic, depending on the process (temperature) used in drying.

Eggs are an excellent source of nutrients for mink. Used wisely, they make a great addition to growing and furring diets.

For further information on mink feeds/feeding be sure to visit Perennia's new website. Click here for the link to mink.