Herding and Feeding

During the winter, reindeer are herded with snow mobiles to keep them in one area rather than having them wondering around. Herders can check the reindeer to see that they are healthy. They can also follow the movements of predators around the herd and nearby, and prevent damages caused by large carnivores.

Some of the herders have separate winter fence areas for reindeer. This helps to keep them together and safe from large carnivores. On the other hand, it significantly increases the need for feeding.

Overall, reindeer are fed during the winter on the basis of need and circumstances in the area they pasture. This happens in the whole reindeer husbandry area. In good pasture areas and weather conditions, feeding is not necessarily needed. Feeding reindeer has been a necessity for a long time in the areas of commercial forests. This is because old forests that have, for example, a lot of lichen, have disappeared. Feeding also helps to keep reindeer in good condition and give birth to strong calves. Due to feeding, there are not masses of reindeer dying from lack of food because of the harsh winter.

Reindeer herding in winter time. Image: Esa Huhtamella.

In some cooperatives there are traditional herding communities that have formulated from families or villages. They do winter herding together with snow mobiles or dogs.

“With the snow mobile, the reindeer herder can move quicker than the herd”

Using snow mobiles started to change reindeer herding in the 1960s. Before, reindeer were herded with skis and when skiing, the herder had to keep very close to the herd. Nowadays, reindeer herders can come home for the night because of the snow mobile. It also helps to move reindeer quickly from one place to another. With the help of new technology, such as GPS collars, reindeer are located easily. Few reindeer can give information of the location and movements of a whole herd.

Using motor vehicles has made reindeer herding more efficient, but it has also increased the expenses. Hence, today reindeer herding is about finding a middle way with profitability and efficiency.