Results linking stress, production and welfare in farmed mink, with special focus on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis, are presented. Interpretation of stress responses are discussed, combining context, neuroendocrine and behavioural indicators. Results from the development and validation of a novel non-invasive sampling of faecal cortisol metabolites (FCM) are presented. Both genes and environment affect the state of stress in farmed mink, and an overview of the major experimental findings in mink are given. This includes results from (1) selection for and against fearfulness with effects on the HPA-axis and the serotonin system, (2) studies of parturition/early kit mortality, and (3) cage enrichment studies affecting stress responses. Finally, recent results exploring the link between stress and abnormal behaviour are presented, investigating the HPA-axis response of stereotypic animals and whether fur-chewing/stereotypic behaviour is associated with hippocampal neurogenesis in mink. Perspectives and suggested future research aiming to improve production and welfare in farmed mink are given.
Proceedings of the Xth International Scientific Congress in Fur Animal Production, 2012, p. 315-327