Profile of Canadian mink farmer Jeff Mitchell
Jeff Mitchell owns a 150-acre mixed farm with mink in Norwich, Ontario. The farm was started in 1949 by his father with just four female mink and one male. It’s grown to 3,200 females today, producing 13,000 mink a year. “Ever since I was a small child, I’ve always been involved with the mink,” says Jeff.
Several family members help out on the farm, plus local hires. “I live in a rural community, and if I can create employment for someone … I’m really glad to do it because that brings a job into our community, and we try to keep our people busy at home first.”
Jeff enjoys the challenges brought by running a mixed farm. “Looking after the cattle is a different part of my life, something different to learn about, to watch and to grow. Each phase of agriculture is different, and we all have different ways of doing what we do.” He points at a neighbor’s field with cattle, horses and sheep all together. “Some of us have gone way forward in how we separated and specialized in everything, and some places life hasn’t changed near as much as everybody thinks it has.”
Jeff’s mink live on a diet of 85% meat blended with cereal with vitamins and minerals to make a completely balanced diet. By-products used include fish heads, beef tripe, and livers and kidneys. These body organs “are all the parts of the animal that the wild animal goes for first, after it’s made a kill,” says Jeff. “In fact, the mink probably have a lot better diet than a lot of people in our society today.” He also believes his mink are better off than wild mink. “They probably have a lot better diet, on a regular basis, than they ever would in the wild. They’re not out fighting, they’re not running miles looking for their food. They have food on a regular basis, fresh water, a clean dry nest, and they’re monitored to be able to survive because if they don’t survive, we don’t survive.”
In the fall, after the mink are harvested, the fat on the carcasses is rendered into biodiesel and the rest is composted along with the manure and used bedding. It is then “returned directly to the land as manure to furnish next year’s crops,” explains Jeff, “which grow exceptionally well on my farm because of said manure.”