One Holstein cowhide provides enough leather for roughly 100 baseballs, and sporting goods company Rawlings produces more than 2 million balls for Major League Baseball every year.

That's a lot of bovines, and nearly all of them come through Minnetonka-based Cargill.

Many of the leftover cowhides from the agribusiness' operations turn into MLB balls, a notable Minnesota connection as the Twins opened their home season at Target Field Thursday afternoon against the Cleveland Guardians.

"We're completely utilizing that animal," said David McCullough, Cargill's director of byproducts. "These products have to go somewhere, and we want good homes for them."

Cargill bought into the baseball business more than 20 years ago when it purchased a slaughterhouse in Pennsylvania. The company has since provided Rawlings with millions of hides to tan into baseball leather.

"This product is very much scrutinized, and the quality of the hides coming from that far north is superior," McCullough said.

Technically, the hide is a byproduct of milk and beef production and is not the main reason the animals are slaughtered. That means there's usually limited control of breeding, environment and other factors that might affect the quality of a hide.

As a result, cows from northern climes are prized for the consistent quality of their hides. Shorter summers mean fewer bugs, which means fewer bug bites and imperfections. And beyond helping to give MLB baseballs their signature pearly white, Holstein hides are typically thinner and better for making leather.

The Wyalusing, Pa., plant runs around the clock and handles 1,500 head of cattle daily. Cargill ships hides to Tennessee Tanning, a Rawlings subsidiary, for processing into leather.

"As those animals reach the end of their life, there is a consistent turn there," McCullough said.

Once the hides make it south, Tennessee Tannings splits them, trims them to an exact thickness, removes any remaining hair and cleans off any remaining flesh. The alum tanning process happens in a drum.

"Once it comes out of the tanning drum, it's beginning to look like a baseball, a very white color," said Mike York, plant manager at the Tennessee Tanning facility in Tullahoma, Tenn. "There are no dyes to do that. It's completely white from the grain to the flesh side."

After drying, the company checks the leather for quality and strength before shipping.

"Baseball leather has to be very strong to withstand the impact of a bat," York said.

From Tennessee, every week about 23,000 square feet of finished leather heads to Costa Rica for hand-stitching into baseballs at the Rawlings plant there, which produces 2.4 million baseballs a year.

Each ball has an average lifespan of seven pitches in an MLB game. Once retired from MLB, most balls are given away, sold as game-used balls or repurposed for batting and fielding practice.