Reindeer Information  a guide to these loving animals

 

Reindeer are of the family Cervidae-which means deer.

In the case of reindeer, males & females both grow antlers, that are deciduous, solid antlers which grow from permanent bases or pedicles on the frontal bones of the skull; genus-Rangifer (reindeer and caribou), species-tarandus (reindeer).  That’s the technical/scientific description.  Farm raised reindeer are curious, friendly, likeable animals. They are easy to fence, feed and train to pull.  Exhibition at Christmas and brood stock sales make them profitable, too!

Reindeer look a lot like their wild North American cousins, the caribou, but are somewhat (8-10 inches) shorter, and there is a difference in color. Reindeer are believed by many to be the first domesticated animals with a written reference to herding in a 9th century letter from Norway’s King Ottar to Alfred the Great which mentioned his fine herd of over 600 reindeer. 

Both male and female reindeer grow antlers each year.  When they are growing, the antlers are soft, rubbery, and the living mass of blood and marrow is covered with a furry skin.  The antlers grow rapidly and during this period the reindeer are said to be “in velvet”.  The antlers are finished growing in August, harden, and the “velvet” is vigorously rubbed off.  The bulls then begin to rut.  They become aggressive (remember, they are animals, keep safety in mind).  Their necks swell.  They become protective of the females in the herd, and the breeding season of several months begins.  The older bulls generally lose or “drop” their antlers first, usually late December or early January, with the remaining bulls following this process until as late as March.  The females generally keep their antlers until calving time, 7 months from when they were bred.  Then the antler growing process is repeated all over again.  The antler when in velvet can be sold to a number of buyers for the Oriental market.  Hard antler when it has dropped can also be sold to a variety of buyers for craft and other uses.

Gestation is about  224 days. The calves are usually single births with that flurry of activity beginning in April.  Twin births are extremely rare in reindeer. The calves are up nursing and walking very quickly, normally in less than an hour. They weigh between 8-14 #s at birth, grow rapidly and some can easily weigh 90 # when they are 4 months old. By then they have already grown their first set of “Rudolph” antlers.

Reindeer do not require large areas or facilities. They can thrive on commercial feeds and are now raised successfully in most parts of the USA, including, as far south as Texas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Procedures have been tried and proven successful in raising reindeer in these diverse areas.  Feed formulas are available, and training tips can be provided by various members who exhibit reindeer.  A list of breeders and owners of reindeer that are for sale is continually updated, as well as a reference list of husbandry articles, circulars and university publications.  A newsletter of recent developments is provided bi monthly.  An annual meeting is conducted each year in various parts of the country.  ROBA has also been in contact with the Norwegian Reindeer Herders Association [NRL], in Tromsø, Norway, in order to initiate an annual exchange of information pertaining to reindeer herding husbandry and Sami customs during the Reindeer Festival, normally held  in March.  The public is always invited to attend.

We recommend talking with ROBA members about these fine animals before you make any purchase.  You should also be aware of  individual state laws and regulations concerning ownership and responsibilities, importation, fencing requirements, herd certification, etc.  Contact ROBA for information on members within your area. They can be very helpful in getting you started.

The purchase of young, farm raised animals, started on feeds that are available in your location is a good option for the new owner. Young animals are easy to handle and train.  You can see the herd they came from, investigate the health status of that herd and make an informed decision based upon personal observation.  Ask if the reindeer herd is a certified TB-free herd or is in the certification process and request to see herd health papers. All reputable breeders are proud of their herd’s health status and will show a prospective buyer that information.  Ask for the names and addresses of persons who have previously purchased reindeer from the seller and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

If you are interested in reindeer—this is the group of dedicated people in the reindeer breeding program for you.  No matter what your reason for having them may be, reindeer raising can be fun and profitable too.  Just ask anyone who owns them!

 

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