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Reindeer in permaculture

 
Guarren cito
Posts: 79
Location: Zone 4A
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Any one else thinking about Reindeer as a permaculture animal?

They have adapted differently than any other animal to deal with long cold winters. Their winter diet is mostly "reindeer lichen" which gives them almost no calories but they don't have to expend energy in digesting or excreting it. Both males and females grow antlers every year so that they can dig in the snow to eat.

Pros:
You can ride them!
Efficient in the cold
Sell the antlers for big money at art fairs.
"Rent" the reindeer at malls, etc. for Santa demonstration
Milk producers
Wool producers
Cart/Sleigh pullers
Browsers just like goats

Cons:
They need a lot of acreage for winter forage (lichen)
They are expensive to buy
They need a lot of nutrition to produce antlers every year vs. goats that constantly grow their horns
The reindeer needs to be large and mature to support an adult man

Does anyone have any experience with this? Any ideas? I can only imagine how cool it would be to ride a reindeer!!! Post any concerns too, I want to hear everything. They seem very similar to goats except that you can ride them.
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Victor Johanson
Posts: 365
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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I've thought about it...they're indigenous up here, so perfectly suited to our climate. Until recently, one had to be an Alaska native to own them, but that has now changed. Now if they would just permit the domestication of moose, we could have the perfect "cow of the north."
 
Guarren cito
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Location: Zone 4A
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Absolutely!! I assume you have researched the moose farms in Russia.
 
Victor Johanson
Posts: 365
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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Guarren cito wrote:Absolutely!! I assume you have researched the moose farms in Russia.


Yes; apparently they've found moose milk to be therapeutic for digestive ulcers and have some successful dairies set up over there. We have to rely on species unsuited to our climate here (except for reindeer, that is).
 
Lm McWilliams
Posts: 49
Location: USDA Zone 5
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Victor Johanson wrote:I've thought about it...they're indigenous up here, so perfectly suited to our climate. Until recently,
one had to be an Alaska native to own them, but that has now changed. Now if they would just permit the domestication of
moose, we could have the perfect "cow of the north."


That's interesting. A friend looked into raising caribou in the lower 48 and found the red tape to be an issue because caribou
are native to the US/North America, but reindeer were 'doable'. Taxonomists keep changing their minds about the names and
aivisions between species & subspecies, (all artifical distinctions imposed by humans, anyway), but historically, and currently
among at least some people, the reindeer is considered to be a domestic animal bred through many, many generations from
wild caribou. A short video by University of Alaska, Fairbanks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onVIPaN9kiI

The behavior difference of lacking a migratory instinct is frequently mentioned as one distinction from the wild animal.

On the feed, people keep reindeer for petting zoos, holiday appearances and the like, and are not feeding them lichens all
winter; they do fine on hay, plus most folks seem to also give them some grain and/or beet pulp. In a permaculture
setting, reindeer should do well on 'standing hay' (pastures allowed to gow ungrazed late in the growing season and
saved for winter use). We've successfully used this method with livestock not nearly so well adapted to digging through snow
to reach forage.

Reindeer also browse on shrubs and small trees, like birch & willow, and the tips, buds, and bark of many of these remain nutritous
throughout the winter. (With appropriate management, depending on the circumstances & goals, of course!)

In northern New Engl, every winter we joke about getting reindeer and yaks. One day we will stop joking and get serious. :)

The less 'usual' domestic animals, like yak, water buffalo, llamas, alpacas, camels, and reindeer - all offer exciting potential,
especially if one can find sources where the animals have been provided a suitable diet & environment, but have not been overly
'pampered'. (Come to think of it, that applies to what we think of as 'standard' livestock, too! At least the less common animals
are closer to ancestors that had to be hardy and robust. That is one of the reasons we selected alpacas as the centerpiece
livestock for our northern New Engl farm.)

A very interesting thread, this!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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