Over the last year or so, I have had the good fortune to work with the Alberta Reindeer Association, assisting them to develop their five-year business plan. As a result, I have gained an appreciation and respect for Santa's transportation fleet - the reindeer. If you are an existing deer or elk farmer, you may want to consider adding a few reindeer to complement your existing herds.
Reindeer, similar to caribou, are part of the Cervidae (deer) family. Reindeer husbandry, most common in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Eurasia, can be traced back to the ninth century. Reindeer came to North America in the early 1900s from Siberia and Norway. Only recently have reindeer been raised on farms in Canada and the United States.
Farmed reindeer can generate many of the same products as the other deer species - velvet antler (although both males and females have antlers), meat, trophy bulls for hunting preserves, and by-products such as robes, hides and shed antlers. A few reindeer owners have mentioned to me that reindeer venison is far superior to any other kind of meat.
Other benefits of raising reindeer include the following.
1. Reindeer can be raised on the same farm as other deer and livestock (but different pens), thus reducing facility, set-up and operational costs.
2. Reindeer are low-maintenance, easy-handling and relative disease- free animals. They do very well in areas that have cold winters and/or marginal land.
3. Costs for handling facilities and equipment are often lower than for other cervidae.
4. There are "fewer" restrictions on reindeer movement between states and countries.
A really unique and attractive aspect of reindeer is the demand for them in commercials, parades, and other promotional events. Reindeer are trained to pull sleighs and can be ridden. Also, being associated with Santa Claus makes them a big attraction with the public, and especially with children. Several bed and breakfast operations have indicated that their reindeer are a major factor in bringing in business. I notice that several Christmas tree farms have reindeer - the promotional opportunities should be obvious.
So adding in a few "trained" reindeer to your farm can bring in additional tourism and advertising revenues, as well as a lot of free publicity.
So where do you get more information on reindeer farming? Here are some resources.
Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association (ROBA) Phone: 616-772-2584, fax: 616-772-3332 or mailto:email@example.com
Alberta Reindeer Association (ARA) Phone: 403-729-2635 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace Country Reindeer Association (British Columbia, Canada) Phone/fax: 250-780-2282, mailto:email@example.com
Saskatchewan Reindeer Association Phone: 305-278-3373, fax: 306-278-2979 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alberta Reindeer Association has produced a manual on raising reindeer. It can be purchased for $25 CDN (about $15 US) by contacting Sharon Maximovich at mailto:email@example.com or 780- 939-3645.
"Raising Reindeer for Pleasure and Profit" by Gordon Poest is available for $15 + $2.50 shipping. It has been revised for 2001 and contains over 100 pages plus 27 photos. Contact Gordon at 616-772- 2584 (phone), 616-772-3332 (fax) or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
http://www.globaldeer.com - will have some reindeer farms listed. Do a search for reindeer under Complex Search.
http://ads.deerfarmer.com - will occasionally have reindeer for sale listed.
http://www.saskreindeer.com - the official website of the Saskatchewan Reindeer Association. Has useful information, list of members and links to member's reindeer farms.
http://reindeer.salrm.alaska.edu/ - is the best site for research and links as put together by the University of Alaska.
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~arctic/rangifer/ - Rangifer at the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth University has extensive information and contacts on reindeer and caribou.