Reindeer have many uses in today’s society. Reindeer are one of the biggest large game species and are hunted in many countries. Greenland, Norway, North America, Alaska and other locations have allowed reindeer hunting for years. In Greenland, there is still evidence of ancient trappers that were hunting reindeer, from their bows and arrows, to their rock built trapping pits (Reindeer .docstock, 2009). Historically, reindeers were hunted and killed for many reasons. Their meat was used for food, their skin was, and still is used for clothing and shelters, and the sinew that is made from their hides can be used in canoes and shoes due to its unique ability to swell and become impermeable to water. In addition, their antlers are either used for household crafts or powdered and used for aphrodisiacs in some Asian countries (Reindeer .docstock, 2009). These are all economic benefits that are used in circumpolar areas. The people of the Arctic also use reindeer as daily beasts of burden, due to cattle and horses not being able to survive the harsh climates. Although reindeer are not typically considered domestic animals because they are usually allowed to roam free in pastures and are usually not fed supplements they are extremely resourceful and only eat the parts of plants that are nutritious at the time (Reindeers.info).
The land management systems in place today for reindeers are free-range making the reindeer population not considered domestic animals. Reindeer are kept under an extensive management system which allows them to graze freely over large ranges (SNRAS). Reindeer feed not only on what is available to them but also what is most nutritious. Reindeer can adapt to a variety of different available food stuffs. In the winter months, they are selective eaters searching for lichen. Lichen is composed of two organisms: fungi and algae that are mutually beneficial to each other and are easily digested by ruminates symbiotic bacteria and microbes. In the autumn months, the reindeer incorporate mushrooms into their diet and are said to have an increased appetite during this time. In the summer months, their diets change to select toward the grasses, cotton, leaves, twigs, and brushes, bulbs, and shoots of shrubs. Reindeers can also be found eating their antlers. This is due to the high salt and mineral content, especially calcium, which is found in antlers. However, in captive situations, reindeer are sometimes fed alfalfa and other pellet type feeds to accommodate for the lack of free range feeding they would normally experience (reindeers.info).
From a management standpoint, it is always good to know about your herd’s reproduction, growth, and breeding capabilities. Reindeer tend to breed in the winter months and give birth from the last week of April until the middle of June. Their gestation period lasts seven to eight months. After the reindeer, fawn, are born they are capable of waling within two hours. Fawn will only nurse for about five months until they start eating with the rest of the herd and learning what to eat and when. Adolescent reindeer reach maturity in their second year during the autumn months. Reindeer, in the wild, can live up to fifteen years, but in captivity they have been known to live an average of twenty-five to twenty-eight years old.
As a wild species and an extremely hardy species, reindeer have been useful for many decades. They were brought to Alaska, between the years 1891-1902, from Siberia to replace the food source that was being depleted by whalers and hunters that wanted seal fur. They were used not only for meat but also for their antlers and hides. They became very useful animals to the natives of Alaska. Reindeer were, and still are, used for their transportation, hauling sleds, and for their hardiness against the harsh winter climates (Reindeers.info).
To date, the only reindeer ranch in Illinois, owned and operated by the Hardy family, happens to be a thriving agritourism business. This family started off farming corn and found they could not make a profit with farming alone. The Hardy family decided that people would probably be fascinated by reindeer and decided to supplement their farm income by opening their reindeer ranch to the public. They were right. Now, this ranch of 19 head of reindeer has grown and expanded to include a Christmas tree farm and daily tours of the farm t tourists. The Hardy family has incorporated agriculture and tourism, hence the term used: agritourism which in turn merges two of the largest incomes of the state together (Reindeer Ranch Tour).
Agritourism has allowed the Hardy’s to turn a dying family business into a successful prosperous business that is catching on and starting a new trend. In essence, reindeer are not only useful for their meat and hunting qualities but they are also unique and friendly which allows many people to have an experience of a lifetime. The University of Illinois Urbana has conducted studies and visited the ranch in order to document the reindeer ranches progress. The success of the Hardy ranch has sprouted interest and many other struggling ranchers are looking for new ways to practice agritourism (Reindeer Ranch Tour).
Blaylock, D. Morris. (1980, June). Reindeer in North America [Electronic version]. Rangelands, Vol. 2, No. 3, 91-92. Retrieved April 9, 2009, from http://www.jstor.org.proxy.uwlib.uwyo.edu/stable/3900279?seq=2&Search=yes&term=Ranching&term=Reindeer&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3DReindeer%2BRanching%26wc%3Don%26dc%3DAll%2BDisciplines&item=4&ttl=172&returnArticleService=showArticle&resultsServiceName=doBasicResultsFromArticle
Barclay, Simon. “Reindeers.info” Articles: The Importance of Reindeer, Reindeer Reproduction and Breeding, Reindeer Food and Diet. 2006 June. Accessed 4-9-10 http://reindeers.info/reindeer_articles/
Reindeer .docstock Documents for Small Business Owners and Professionals. Last modified on 18 May 2009. Wikipedia Foundations, Inc. 2010. Accessed 4-9-10 http://www.docstoc.com/docs/6282981/Reindeer
Larsen, Deborah Levey. Reindeer Ranch Tour. University of Illinois at URBANA Champaign. ACES News. August 1, 2003. Accessed 4-9-10. http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/stories/news2432.html
Reindeer Research Program University of Alaska. Range Management and nutrition, Meat Sciences, SNRAS. Last modified 3-24-08. Accessed 4-9-10. http://reindeer.salrm.uaf.edu/index.php