The mating season starts in the beginning of March, lasting about two weeks. The females are mated twice, with the heat cycle carefully controlled by light conditions. Minks differ from other animals in that the actual act of mating is what initiates ovulation. Nine days after the first mating there is a new set of eggs in the ovaries. Females which are not mated before the end of March are set aside for pelting.
Unlike other animals, the duration of pregnancy for minks can vary from 40 to 70 days because embryonic development does not begin until the eggs appear. Once this occurs, the pregnancy lasts an additional 30 days.
Good start for kits
The birth period normally takes place between the 25th of April and the 10th of May. In large litters with more than 8 to 9 kits, it can be necessary to cross foster some of the kits to other dams, because a dam can have difficulty taking care of a large litter properly. Dams with small litters can easily adopt the extra kits from large litters.
When the kits are four weeks old, feeding on the lid of the nest box is initiated. This speeds up the kits’ ability to learn how to eat on their own, thus taking pressure off the dam. Later on, the kits must also learn how to drink from the farm’s regular watering system.
Once they are 8 weeks old, the kits are weaned from their dam. Around the 1st of July, the kits are then paired off, female and male, in order to ensure normal behavioural development.
By the end of August, the physical development of the mink is more or less complete and continued weight gain consists primarily of fat.
The selection of animals for the following year’s breeding stock begins at the end of October. This is when the animals’ size, behaviour, health and pelt quality are evaluated. Animals not selected for breeding are pelted.
The pelting season begins in November/December. During the pelting process, the skin is prepared in such a way that it can keep for up to a year without being dressed. The skins are placed on drying boards in order for them to maintain their shape during the drying process. The rest is recycled for use in the production of bio-diesel among other things.
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