Reindeer husbandry competes with its most important resource, broad pasture areas, with other land usage. The most significant land user is forestry. Around 71 % of the Metsähallitus’ forests are located to the reindeer husbandry area.

Forests are very important winter pasture areas for reindeer. They eat mainly different lichens and twigs. As the winter proceeds, lichens have growing role in the nutrition of reindeer since it is easy to find and has lots of carbohydrates. RKTL and Metla (nowadays Luke) has concluded in several different researches that there are more lichen in old forests than in young, growing forests.


In the early spring, when the snow gets too thick and hard for digging food, reindeer saves its energies and starts to use beard moss that grow in trees. According to the Metla researches, most of these beard lichens grow in old coniferous forests. Reindeer eats the beard lichens that grow on the trunks and branches, but also the ones that have dropped on the snow due wind.

Every cooperative gives supplementary feed for reindeer during the winter time. The amount and durance depends on the individual needs of every cooperative or herding district. In commercial forest areas, feeding is necessary to keep reindeer in good condition through the winter. The supplementary feeding is given to reindeer partly in farms and partly in the nature. Reindeer survive in good condition without winter supplementary feeding in broad old forest areas, such as different reserves, where lichens still grow well.

Forestry influences to reindeer husbandry particularly through changes in the pasture areas. It limits the amount of important winter pasture areas and weakens their condition:

  • coherent pasture areas get shattered
  • when the trees are cut down, beard lichens have no place to grow
  • the land is modified: lichens and twigs lessen
  • the waste left from the logging disturbs the growing of lichens
  • in the logging areas, radiation, humidity, temperature and wind conditions change. Lichens have to compete with other plants in the area for space
  • snow gets harder on open space areas due to the winter which makes it more difficult for reindeer to dig food (early spring)

Forestry effects on the reindeer herding work

  • stumps, logging waste, drawing harrow on land, trenching and overly dense planting stock make it more difficult for reindeer and herders to move in pasture areas

The positive effects of forestry to reindeer herding

  • thinning of the forest enables better visibility and increases the amount of light; it benefits lichen and it is easier to move around in the area
  • forest roads make it easier to do herding work
  • reindeer herders get also seasonally employed

Taking reindeer husbandry into consideration in forestry

The new Forest Act (1093/1996) outlines that the owner of the forest can decide on the wood harvesting and timings of it. This allows different types of felling, which again enables natural renewal. Hence, different types of forests will get better preconditions for growing. Using intermediate felling, the lichen would transfer to the next tree generation more easily. Other land modifications would not then be needed and the reindeer pasture areas would be in better condition also in commercial forest land.


For more information: Advisors