Hannu Sillanpää, who recently won special recognition for his Saga Lumi Royal pelts, sees the job of breeding and improving skin quality as an on-going process. There are no shortcuts to positive results.
“I am passionate about my animals. I work among them all the time and know their habits inside and out,” says Sillanpää, who is a member of the Saga Furs board and a second-generation fur breeder.
Sillanpää stresses how farmers who want to produce top quality animals must have a knack for the breeder’s profession. Purchasing good breeding animals is just the start of the process. It is impossible to get very far without taking all prerequisite steps.
The next phase involves careful analysis of the animals’ traits, followed by comprehensive evaluations about which combinations of characteristics would create better offspring.
Second opinions are welcome
”It is mind work, and vision. What’s more, it is important to get outside help from others in the process of determining breeding solutions. If you work alone, you often become blind to your own operations,” he says.
Sillanpää praises the skin and animal specialists connected to Saga Furs, individuals he meets several times each year. ”We’re not always in agreement, we squabble once in a while, but that’s the way it is.”
Making progress breeding shorthaired mink
For a number of years, Finnish fur breeders have systematically worked towards expanded production of top quality shorthaired minks. Results are beginning to show and at a recent skin exhibit, and this year—in addition to the traditional awards for quality—there was even a certificate for Saga Furs Lumi Royal pelts. Sillanpää won the honours and as the jewel in the crown, a shining trophy.
Sillanpää tells how he began to breed his own shorthaired mink on his farm in Veteli. The starting point was the classic American species, which was crossed with Danish mink having a slightly coarser type of hair. Sillanpää’s skins had short, silky guard hairs and he received special mention for the exceptionally high quality characteristics of the skins.
Continual improvements make the difference
Without the analysis of breeding solutions, our end results would hardly be as good as they are. Sillanpää’s best skins have been sold at auction as Top Lots; collections of pelts that fetch sky-high prices, and that are used by buyers’ for special products.
All routine tasks on a farm have some influence on the animal and the quality of the skin. Sillanpää notes proper feeding as the foundation. For a long time he has been feeding his animals individually; each animal gets the most precise mixture of nutrients and portion size. Sillanpää’s farm is equipped with machines that serve individual portions.
The two employees at the Sillanpää farm share his quality philosophy. This allows him to attend festive occasions like the skin exhibition. ”Everything runs at the farm as if I were there myself,” he says with a smile.
Researcher Olli Hietanen: Future of the fur industry is full of opportunity