Alice in Dairyland explains that Wisconsin leads the nation in mink production

The weather outside is frightful, but bundling up in a mink coat is delightful. For years now, the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders Association has provided a custom-made Wisconsin mink coat for Alice to wear as she braves the winter cold. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to wear it in November because it was pretty warm all month. But wearing it even these first few days of December has given me an opportunity to help educate people about Wisconsin leading the nation in the mink industry.

I’ve had the opportunity to tour Zimbal Minkery near Sheboygan Falls twice. I first toured it in May 2008 as a Finalist for the 61st Alice in Dairyland when the finals were held in Sheboygan County. I also toured it again early this past summer as the 62nd Alice in Dairyland. Zimbal Minkery is the nation’s largest mink ranch. Zimbal doesn’t just produce a large quantity of mink pelts, but also very high quality pelts. They have been recognized year after year for producing pelts of superior quality.

During my tours, I’ve learned that raising mink is no easy task; they require year-round care. The mink are bred in March. After just one month of gestation, the kits are born, and they are tiny. A newborn kit is no bigger than the size of your pinky finger. Each female will average about five kits. The kits grow quickly, and in the summer, they will be separated into other cages. When fall begins in September, the young mink are now at full size of about 24 inches in length. By the end of November, they have a full winter coat and are ready for harvest.

Wisconsin is an ideal place to raise mink because we have seasons. Mink react to the number of hours of light each day. As the hours of daylight get shorter heading toward winter, the mink know to grow their winter fur. The summers don’t get too hot for the mink here either. Wisconsin is also a great place for mink because of their dietary needs and the food available here.

Mink need a high protein diet to grow quality fur. Wisconsin has a significant meat industry, and the mink enjoy that. Mink are like recyclers, using the waste products from meat processing facilities. Mink farmers will gather many carcasses, organs, and expired meat products to mix together like a casserole for the mink to eat. Their diet isn’t solely protein, though. The casserole is also supplemented with vitamins, grain, and calcium to give a proper balance. The mink are fed twice each day, and a fresh supply of water is available all day.

With the mink eating up the leftovers from the meat industry, the mink are helping the environment. Mink are also helping our state’s economy as well. In 2008, the mink industry generated nearly $40 million in economic activity. More than 900,000 pelts were produced in Wisconsin in 2008. And that is more than another other state in the U.S. There are many colors of mink pelts, including mahogany (dark brown), pastel (light brown), blue iris (dark grey), sapphire (medium grey), violet (light grey), and white. Most mink pelts are black, like the ones in my coat. If you see me out and about this winter while sporting my mink coat, come say hi and take a look at some of the quality pelts produced in Wisconsin, like the ones in the coat from the Pagel Mink Ranch. Thank you, Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders for your continued partnership with the Alice in Dairyland program to help promote part of Wisconsin’s $59.16 billion agriculture industry!

Alice in Dairyland is Wisconsin’s agricultural ambassador. She travels over 40,000 miles each year to spread the word about our agricultural industry. Alice in Dairyland can be reached by writing to DATCP, 2811 Agriculture Drive, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, WI 53718.

You can schedule Alice for an upcoming event by contacting the Alice in Dairyland Program at (608) 224-5080 or by e-mail at

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