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Full text of "Mink farming, how to start, buildings, care and feed, and its possibilities"

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MINK 
FARMING 




How to Start 
Buildings 
Care and Feed 
And Its Possibilities 

As learned by years of experience while actually 
engaged in the business. 

.... BY ... . 



A. S. WHITE 



MINK FARMING 

How to Start 
Buildings 
Care and Feed 
And Its Possibilities 



By A . S . WHITE 



Available only from the Author, Pine River, Minnesota 
Price, $1.00 Postpaid 



COPYRIGHT APPLIED FOR 
1913 



PINE RIVER SENTINAL 
Job and Book Print 



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FOREWORD. 

In preparing this booklet it is my desire to cover as far as possible all 
the knowledge I have acquired during several years of actual mink farming. 
It is written for the benefit of the beginner, and if the information and direc- 
tions herein contained are closely followed, it will enable anyone to start 
and maintain a mink farm, either in a large or small way, with a very fair 
chance of success. 

It is not a large volume filled with cuts and pictures of the various 
animals which some fellow "THINKS" might be successfully raised or 
propagated. Such a book would help the prospective beginner in mink 
farming very little. 

At the time I started in the business I was unable to find anything 
printed on the subject, so had to rely upon experience as my teacher. The 
result was numerous mistakes — costly, too — which had to be corrected 
year by year, the greatest cost being valuable time wasted. 

I now offer you in this effort the facts connected with mink farming 
as learned by myself during several years of experience in the business. 
What I offer you is the plans and methods I am using today in my own 
yards, and while there may be room for much improvement on my present 
system, I can assure you that I am having very good success with my 
mink, and by following these pages closely you should do just as well. 

— The Author. 



Page 2 



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HOW TO START A MINK FARM. 

To begin with, the person who expects to make a success in this, as 
well as any other business, must be adapted to the kind of work to be done. 
That is, if you want to raise mink, you must LIKE MINK. You must 
take a deHght in caring for them — you must find the "company" agreeable 
to you. You must study them and their ways, and until you have learned 
from personal experience of some better way, you should follow closely the 
instructions given in the following pages. 

Having decided that we must and do meet the above requirements 
we are ready for the next step, which, naturally, is a location. This may 
be a city home with a vacant lot, it may be a vacant piece of ground on 
the farm, or it may be back in the woods miles from a town or railroad on 
some lake or stream (my own place is located on DRY ground just outside 
the village of Pine River, Minn.) My water supply is furnished by a 
windmill, as shown later. 

Having selected your piece of ground, you are ready to build, and 
the diagram given will explain fully just how to go about it. 







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Page 3 



DESCRIPTION AND SPECIFICATIONS OF FIGURE 1. 

Figure No. 1 shows two pens thirty feet by two and one-half feet, built end to end 
under one roof which affords a wider passageway than if they were built side by side. 

One pen, or the part on one side of the center line of the passageway is thirty feet 
by two and one-half feet, and will accommodate five mink — one female and young. It 
is constructed of galvanized sheet iron, inch mesh woven wire netting, concrete, and 
lumber of two by four inch dimensions for the frame. By referring to the diagram it 
will be seen that part of the pen — fifteen feet of the thirty feet — is under a roof, the 
remaining fifteen feet being left open with a wire netting top. 

Under the roof at one end of the pen is a trench eighteen inches by twenty inches 
which is lined with cement for water. If several pens are built side by side they may 
be separated where the trench passes from one pen to another by three-eighths inch iron 
rods or bars placed one inch apart and imbedded in the cement in the bottom of the 
trench while the cement is still green (soft). 

The floors of the pens are constructed of concrete three inches thick. The frames 
are constructed the Scune as for a house of two by four lumber, and the one inch mesh 
wire netting stretched tightly upon it. For the sides it will require wire netting of the 
setme one inch mesh, which comes in stock form two feet wide. But in case several 
pens are being built side by side they should be partitioned with a strip the entire 
height of the pen of galvanized iron. This prevents the mink from fighting, which they 
would do if the wire netting was all that separated them. The partition of sheet iron 
extends under the roof to the passageway, meeting it at right angles and reaching to the 
roof. 

The passageway may or may not have a concrete floor, as it is not absolutely 
necessary. The building is constructed entirely of galvcmized sheet iron placed over a 
wood frame which is constructed of two by four lumber. 

The material required for building a set of pens as the illustration shows in Figure 
1 would be: 250 feet of two by four lumber for framing; four cubic feet of concrete; 
sixty-five feet of woven wire two feet in width for sides; and thirty-eight feet of five 
foot wire netting for the open part of the top of the pens, and also for the partition be- 
tween the pens and the passageway. (This will have to be split in two parts two and 
one-half feet wide if only one pair of pens are built, but if two pens are constructed 
side by side it will be just right for two pens without splitting. 

This allows for the small doors which are built in the wire partitions in the pass- 
ageway, through which the pens may be entered. 

For the roofing and sheeting up of the building it will require 385 square feet of 
galvanized sheet iron. Including nails, staples, hooks and hinges, etc., for doors, these 
are all the materials required. 

These are the kind of pens I have had the best success with, and are 
the cheapest and best I can recommend at this time. TTie plan gives a 
diagram of one pen two and one-half feet by thirty feet, which is right for 
one female and her young until weaned. Then you can keep five or less 



Page 4 



animals in it until sold or until you require the pen again for a breeding pen. 
You can build two or more of these pens together, according to the size 
of plant you require, the more pens built at the one time the cheaper they 
can be put up. 

Regarding cost, it would be difficult to state what the cost per p>en 
would be in different parts of the country. I can only state that my own 
cost me for work and material on each F>en two and one-half by thirty feet 
about $25.00 for each pen. But one thing is certain, they will last for 
many years, and I am always sure when I put an animal in one of them I 
will find him there when I look for him again. It will not pay you to build 
in any other way except the best, as you run too much risk of losing your 
stock, and besides the cheap way is always the more expensive in the end. 
Remember, you are engaging in a businss for a term of years, not days, and 
you will have other things to do besides repairing pens that prove defective. 

Having gotten thus far along wnth your work you should solve the 
question of getting your first stock. It is generally a good idea to start 
looking them up as soon as you decide to go into the business. It will not 
be an easy matter to secure them. If you live in the country where mink 
are natives you jnight build some box traps as shown herewith, and capture 
your start. 




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Page 5 



This method at best will probably take you a long time, as mink are 
getting very scarce all over the country, but you doubtless could get started 
in this way if you live in a country where there are wild mink. If not, you 
will have to buy your stock from someone who is already in the business. 
An advertisement in most any of the out-door magazines wnll put you in 
touch with the few "ranchers" who have a few animals for sale each year. 
Get in touch with them at the earliest possible date and place your order 
so that you will not be disappointed when shipping time comes, for re- 
member, if you fail to get your animals this fall it means the loss of a whole 
year, and besides the price of live mink is rapidly advancing. 

If you are not acquainted with any publication of the kind wanted 
I might state that The Hunter-Trader-Trapper published at Columbus, 
Ohio, or Fur News Magazine, 71 West 23rd Street, New York City, will 
answer your purpose very well. There are many other publications of this 
same nature that would do. Your greatest trouble will be in getting your 
stock to start with. 

After you have secured your stock you are ready for the feed problem, 
which while very important is very simple. One quarter pound of fresh 
meat (pork excluded) is what I feed the year round. I get my supply 
from the woods in the form of wild rabbits which are very plentiful here. 
Fish may also be used at times but will not do as a steady food. With the 
mother mink I also feed fresh milk twice a day besides the meat after the 
young are born and until they are weaned. 

Give them fresh water each day and keep the pens clean, and also 
the nest boxes should be dry and clean. Tlie boxes and pens should be 
cleaned thoroughly once a week in summer time but once a month in the 
cold weather is sufficient. 

A word about nest boxes. They should be constructed of one-inch 
boards, twelve by twelve by thirty-six inches and divided into three com- 
partments as shown in the illustration herewith. This gives your mink a 
good, darli home, which is very important, particularly so v^nlth the females 
when the young are born. 

Page 6 



Ftg. 3. 
Tfl/PLE'SECTIOW WEST-BOI 




The nest should be as near perfectly dark as possible and you should 
not under any consideration open the nest box or handle the young mink 
until they come out of their home of their own free will. This will occur 
when they are about four weeks old. I have had cases where they did 
not come out until they were six weeks old. Let them alone but feed the 
mother all she will eat — not any more — twice a day. But don't let her 
impose upon you. She will carry everything you give her into the nest box 
and if too much meat is given you will have trouble on this account. She 
cannot eat more than one-quarter of a pound of fresh meat twice a day 
with what fresh milk she wants. Sometimes it happens that a mink will 
not touch the milk at all and will eat as much as half a pound of meat at a 
feed. The person will have to use his own judgment in the matter of feed- 
ing as no fixed rule will apply in all cases. Should you find that a nest box 
is becoming foul after the young are born and before they come out of the 
nest, you should place a fresh nest box in the pen and leave it to the mother 
mink to make the change if she so desires. If she does not, let her alone. 
Don't force the change upon her, for nine times out of ten she will destroy 
her young ones if you do. If she makes the move herself, you can then 
quietly remove the old nest box from the pen. 

As stated heretofore, when the young ones are from four to six weeks 
old they will come out of the nest box and spend most of the time in the 



Page 7 



open pen. They will eat a little at this age, but when eight weeks old 
should be eating well. Watch them closely at this time. The mother will 
be trying to wean them and she will have a hard time without your assist- 
ance, which you should extend in all cases. As soon as the young ones 
are eating well you should take them away from the mother, and when 
doing this always sort them, putting the males in yards by themselves and 
the females likewise. This wdll save you a lot of trouble later on in telling 
what sex your mink are as it is not easy to handle them after they are grown. 
In handling them at weaning time put on a pair of heavy leather gloves and 
they cannot hurt you in the least. They wnll make an awful fuss but go 
right ahead with your work. It is sometimes policy to leave one female 
"kit" in the pen with her mother when the others are taken away. This 
takes care of whatever milk she may have left and prevents her from being 
restless as well. 



Page 8 



THE BREEDING SEASON. 

Mink breed in most states of the Union from March first to April 
first. In my yards I place the male and female together about the first of 
March and leave them together until the fifteenth of April. (Use box 
traps for moving grovv^n mink from one pen to another.) If you have more 
females than males you can put as many as five females with one male, but 
I prefer to mate them in pairs for the reason that the females will generally 
fight each other when bunched with the male, in which case you will have to 
separate them as they are likely to cause you the loss of an animal or two. 
They are very wacked fighters and do not know when to quit. I have also 
tried placing one female in a pen with a male and leaving her a day or so, 
or until I was satisfied that she could be safely removed to a f>en by herself. 
This plan works out all right but I do not advise it unless you are short of 
males as it makes it necessary to handle your mink too much, and at that, it 
is not as sure as leaving them together a month. They will breed at one 
year old and for young stock I advise to use male and female of the same 
age. Never put two males in the same pen at this season of the year for 
they surely will fight to the death. 

After you have returned your females to their separate pens (April 
15) leave the males in pens singly by themselves and everything will run 
along very quietly for exactly forty-two days. Then the young mink will 
make their appearance. You will know this by the "small voices" coming 
from the nest boxes. They usually keep up a constant "crying" for several 
days, but don't get the impression that there is something the matter with 
them and try to remedy the matter by opening the nest boxes or by disturb- 
ing them in any other way. The proper thing to do is to keep away from 
them as much as possible, going to the pen only twice a day to feed the old 
mink. 

Let me make it emphatic. Do not molest them under any circum- 
stances. If you do the mothers will invaribly kill and eat their young. 

Page 9 



This one item cost me my young mink and two years' time before I was 
satisfied as to the cause, and my advice should save anyone who reads this 
booklet much valuable time and much money should they ever engage in 
the mink raising business. 

My experience has been that mink will breed only once a year as 
above stated. I have tried to get fall litters but without success, which 
convinces me beyond any question of a doubt that they will breed in the 
spring only. 

The number of young in a litter is from four to eight as experienced 
in my yards, and five is about the average. 



Page 10 



MORE ABOUT YARDS AND BUILDINGS. 

The plans as shown on previous pages are the ones in actual use on 
my place and I must say they are quite satisfactory. Still I submit below a 
plan for building upon running water which I believe would prove very 
satisfactory, and if anything, better than the dry land plan that I have in 
use. Still, I have never tried it myself nor do I know of anyone else who 
is using it. There might be several things to overcome in the use of such a 
plan that I have overlooked. However, I submit it for your consideration. 



5IDR F,LF.UJim 




Page 11 



SHIPPING BOXES. 

I herewith give an illustration of the standard shipping box which I 
have used and found very satisfactory. I have delivered animals in first- 



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Fig. S 
SHIPPING BOIES. 



class condition where they were eight days and eight nights on the road, 
using the plan as shown herewith. 



Page 12 



GOOD LOCATIONS TO START. 

In speaking of locations, it might be of interest to some to learn that 
the State of Minnesota (central and northern parts) furnishes hundreds of 
ideal spots for locating a "fur farm." The country, with its hundreds of 
beautiful lakes and streams of pure running water makes it a more than 
ideal for this business, as well as for diversified farming and stock raising. 
Land is cheap and within the reach of limited means. Game of all kinds 
as well as fish abound in plenty. You are also far enough north to give 
you the very best of fur — a very impK)rtant item in fur farming. 

Should any reader of this booklet feel interested in locating in this 
part of Minnesota, just write me, stating as near as possible just what you 
may want, and I will be glad to take the matter up with you with land 
men here and let you know what we can do for you. In all cases address, 
A. S. White, Pine River, Minnesota. 



Page 13 



THE POSSIBILITIES OF MINK FARMING. 

In speaking of the possibilities of mink farming from the dollar and 
cents point of view many things might be stated, all of which might be true. 
I might go ahead and show figures how after a certain number of years the 
person who engaged in the business, starting with a certain number of ani- 
mals, with a certain average increase each year, would be worth a large 
sum of money. This, I beheve, has already been done with chickens, Bel- 
gian hares, etc. Also I believe the rule has been applied to mink farming 
by some enterprising parties in one of our large western cities. 

But it is not my purpose to present any such picture to you. Mink 
farming, as in any other kind of stock raising, depends largely upon the 
man in charge. He is sure to meet with some reverses. You cannot raise 
every young mink that is born and sell it at a certain price any more than 
you can raise every pig, calf, lamb or colt. However, your losses should 
not be in any greater proportion than in that of any of the stock mentioned, 
and there is without doubt a very ready sale at present for all the live mink 
that can be raised. Also a ready market for fur hides at very good prices. 

We can only speculate as to what future demands for live mink and 
mink fur will be. But taking into consideration the fact that the live wild 
supply is rapidly becoming very scarce we have no reason to suppose that 
the demand will grow less. On the contrary we have every reason to 
believe that the demand will be greater and that prices will advance very 
materially. This being the case I feel sure that anyone may engage in mink 
farming with as much assurance that there will be a steady market as he 
could in any other branch of stock raising. 

We might go into the detail of profits and show you where a mink 
which costs you something Hke fifty cents to raise meets with a ready sale 
at the present price of $30.00 During the past season — 191 2 — I sold for 
$50.00 per pair or $20.00 for males and $30.00 for females, and I had to 
return a great many orders unfilled on account of having not enough animals 
to supply the demand. 

Page 14 



This would look like a get-rich-quick scheme but it is not my desire to 
present it to you in any such manner. What I am willing to state is this, 
namely: You can make a better percentage of profit out of raising mink 
than you can out of any other kind of farm stock, and barring black or 
silver fox, any other kind of fur bearing animal. 

Large fortunes are being invested in fox farm ventures at this time, but 
it requires a large amount of money to engage in the business — as high as 
$10,000.00 being paid for a single pair of black fox at the time of this 
writing. 

Naturally this puts the opportunity for fox farming beyond the reach 
of most of us. Mink being the next best thing and within the reach of all 
it would seem that they are sure to receive their share of attention, thereby 
assuring a good market for live mink for stocking purposes for some time 
to come, at good prices. 

One pertinent remark in closing. The successful mink farmer will 
have nothing to complain of, while the unsuccessful mink farmer will have 
only himself and no one else to blame for his failure. 



Page 15 



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