Friday, October 26, 2012

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.


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