WHAT ARE REINDEER?
Reindeer are mammals which live to 10 to 15 years of age. On
average, adult bucks measure 180cm long, stand 110cm at the shoulder
and weigh 81 to 153kg. Average adult cows are 166cm long, stand
104cm at the shoulder, and weigh 63 to 94kg. A mature pelt is 4 to
5cm thick and has a throat fringe which is most developed during the
fall in larger bulls.
Their common colours are gray with some brown and a dash of
yellow. Domestic reindeer tend to be more "salt and
pepper" coloured. Colour variations range from white to black
or dark brown. Most calves are born brownish-red and later develop
their adult colouring. White calves remain white throughout their
Both males and females have antlers which mature quickly. The
period from prime to calcification can be as little as four days.
Bull velvet is prime starting in June; cow velvet is prime by July.
Velvet is removed before it palmates (tip flattens out).
WHERE ARE REINDEER PRODUCED IN BC?
The majority of the reindeer farms in BC are located in the Peace
River area. There are about 8 reindeer farms in the province. These
reindeer are recognized as being among the healthiest in the world.
HOW MANY REINDEER DO WE PRODUCE?
Reindeer farming is in its infancy stages in BC. The total
inventory count for BC is approximately 350 animals. Reindeer game
farms constitute 5% of the game farming industry in BC. The annual
slaughter to date is 10 to 20 animals.
HOW ARE REINDEER PRODUCED?
Reindeer are seasonal breeders. Their natural rutting season is
September to October, lasting three to four weeks. Fawning generally
occurs in April and May after a 7 month gestation period.
Reindeer start breeding around 1 1/2 years of age and remain
fertile up to 10 years. Bulls tend to separate into smaller herds to
forage. They return to the main herd in preparation for the rut.
Prior to the rut they lose the velvet from their antlers, their
necks thicken, belly draws in and they grow a mane. They do not eat
much during the rut and as a result become dull and skinny. The
highest sexual activity of a bull lasts only 10 to 22 days. Total
rut period is 25 to 30 days.
The onset of heat depends on the condition of the cow. Well
nourished, content cows will come into heat earlier while weak,
starved and underdeveloped cows won't come into heat at all.
Reindeer cows in heat will mount other reindeer and are more
restless than usual. Their being in heat is less apparent than for
other farm animals. Each heat lasts 12 to 24 hours and if the cow
doesn't become impregnated during the first cycle, the heat will
return after 11 to 20 days and another breeding can take place.
A cow becomes restless in the last 24 hours before calving
occurs. She will leave the herd and hide, looking for a protected
place, out of the wind. The birth takes a few minutes to 1/2 hour
and the cow will lick the calf dry.
WHAT DOES REINDEER LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?
Final products include venison and antlers. Reindeer meat is
called venison. Game farmed venison has been proven to have a lower
fat and cholesterol content than most red meats. Antler velvet and
shavings are exported to various countries, primarily in Asia.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE REINDEER LEAVES THE FARM?
Reindeer are transported to processing facilities where the
animals are slaughtered and processed. The product is distributed by
various means to retail stores, restaurants and novelty shops. There
are few established markets willing to take reindeer. Individual
producers are often involved in marketing. There is also a market
for live animals in the U.S.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO REINDEER PRODUCERS FACE?
In BC, there is a challenge to develop a local market. Reindeer
growers are considering ways to get their product to the public.
There is a successful home freezer market in Peace River. One
producer is creating a velvet infusion or tonic and selling the
product that way. There is a need to develop an effective
promotional campaign to increase the public's awareness of the
availability and value of venison.
WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING REINDEER?
- Game farmers
- Meat packers
- Restaurant chefs
Interesting Fact About Reindeer:
During the mating season, or the rut, bulls do not eat much. A
bull can lose up to 23kg, which is 15 to 20% of its body weight.
- Contacts and other resources:
- BC Ministry of Agriculture
Peace Country Reindeer
- Saskatchewan Reindeer