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.