REINFEED - feeding reindeer for future free-range functionality

Last changed: 06 May 2019
Reindeers, snow and trees. Photo.

Short- and long-term effects of winter-feeding on future ability to utilize natural pastures

Extensive herding systems, like reindeer husbandry, make use of animals' natural adaptation to the environment and their ability to transfer natural pastures (an otherwise underutilised resource) into meat and other products. In reindeer husbandry winter-feeding has increased due to competing land use activities and climate change. This may be beneficial in the short-term, but might risk the animals' future ability to make use of the natural forage resource and reduce the possibility to utilise natural pastures.

In REINFEED, we want to investigate whether extensively managed animals that are provided easily accessible feed during winter, when natural feed is limited, may be trapped in a "feeding pitfall", using reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) as the model species. We will i) promote knowledge exchange and interview herders in Sweden and Finland who have a long experience of winter-feeding, and ii) conduct an experiment to reveal possible effects of winter-feeding of reindeer calves on future foraging behaviour. We will test this in two reindeer herds, where fed calves are compared to free-ranging control animals. We will use GPS to follow animal movements, directly after feeding, and in the following winter. The experiment is planned for the winter 2019/20 with a follow-up the during the winter 2020/21. Animal body weight and condition scoring will be used to assess the animals' ability to utilise natural pastures after feeding.

Our aim is to gain knowledge of a best practice of winter-feeding for reindeer and other animals to avoid possible deterioration of foraging performance on natural pastures.

Project participants: The project is a collaboration between the participating reindeer herders and herding communities, the Swedish Sami reindeer herders association (SSR) and several researchers from SLU and other universities - Docent Anna Skarin, Prof. Birgitta Åhman and PhD-student Heidi Rautiainen, Dept of Animal Nutrition and Management, SLU, PhD Tim Horstkotte, Dept of Fish and wildlife management, SLU, Docent Moudud Alam, Dalarna University, Docent Minna Turunen, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, and Prof. Paul Blackwell University of Sheffield.

Project leader: Anna Skarin anna.skarin@slu.se, +46 18-671954

Facts:

The project is funded by Formas and is running 2019-2023

Page editor: marie.liljeholm@slu.se