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Grading and Pelting Discussion with Jorn Mogensen

January 08, 2016

DSCN0230edit2It is an honor and a privilege to share the David Dittrich Story and through our monthly "Blog", we will bring to you the excitement of working with our mink, employees and our many partners. 

Grading and Pelting

The best learning experiences come from talking with someone who has many years experience in the mink industry. Jorn Mogensen, General Manager responsible for the day-to-day operations of A&M Dittrich Mink Farm Inc. has been a mink farmer and business owner for over 40+ years. He also brings with him the knowledge and advantages of raising both European and North American Mink.

I talked with Jorn on our drive down to NAFA’s American Grading Facility located in Stoughton, Wisconsin. Jorn was meeting with NAFA’s Lead Graders to discuss and view our bulk pelts of gold quality Mahogany for the upcoming January 2016 Auction in Toronto, Canada. It was a perfect time to interview Jorn about the Grading and Pelting Processes for our company.

Jorn spoke with ease as he shared with me his approach. It was evident mink farming was so much more than a job for him, it was his “passion!”

What skills does one need to grade?

First and foremost it comes from years of experience, having a good eye and understanding the market. It is not enough to just sit in a grading cart and grade, you have to have control over all aspects of the mink and its life cycle. You need to be a visionary in a way where you appreciate the market needs and demands. I watch all auctions and this helps me to plan for our next season. I look at what the buyers are purchasing, the costs and then I can prepare our mink for the next season.

What do you look for when grading mink?

It is really no different than when you go looking for a new car. You know what you want, you have a specific model in mind, color, quality.   It is the same with mink. There are different markets for different mink and you appreciate these differences. When I am grading I look at the quality of the fur and the size of the mink. The pelts should be uniform with the correct textured nap length connection to the underfur.  There should also be straight, silky guard hairs with an evident shine on the pelts.  I have experience in raising and grading both European and North American Mink, this definitely gives me an advantage in the industry. It is my job to critique our mink to meet the market needs and this mean being a strong leader who has the ability to share knowledge and mentor employees that will be grading on our farms.

Who do you involve in the grading process and why?

Planning is everything and being ready in advance for grading and pelting time. I meet with our Auction House (NAFA) and discuss with them what we need to do to prepare our mink for the upcoming season. What mink we will pelt, numbers we pelt and how best we can achieve a more uniformed and consistent collection with all colors. It is essential to have an excellent working relationship with the Auction House if you want to achieve success. There has to be a mutual respect and we need each other and our different sets of skills. This is important when your end goal is to raise a high-end quality North American Mink. As well, I meet with our Company’s Management Team. We all have to be on the “same page” and working as a team.   It comes down to good time and organizational management skills.  It is a win win situation when all are engaged in the planning process right from the onset.

Why do you select certain mink for pelting?

There are many different variables in selcting mink for pelting.  For us we want uniformity and consistency in our mink. Our goal is to maintain a certain level of high genetics and we remove those that do not fit our collection. Grading out mink also depends on the production levels too. 

How do you know what the market is looking for?

I base it on watching the auctions and on past auctions.   You also live and learn through experience. There are different markets looking for different qualities, sizes and colors. We have to have an appreciation for all markets and we taylor our collection to meet these needs.

Why do you see the value in having your own pelting center?

We stand behind our collection because we have complete control over the whole process. There is a high level of transparency and traceability because we do it all ourselves from creating the diet, preparing the mink feed, raising the mink, to the breeding, the grading and the pelting processes.

In closing...To produce a good quality mink there has to be a high level of professionalism.  I am continuously learning. Being a Mink Farmer is part of who I am!

My take away from our discussion...It was evident and clear that learning the skill of grading does not come overnight and one must also have a great appreciation for the industry. There are different levels of complexities...you must be part business man/woman, scientist, quality control officer and understand/know the fine art of being a good mink farmer.

Thank you, Jorn.

Interviewer: Michelle Brown   

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