Reindeer Production Research Herd
From early September 1997 to early September 2019, the University of Alaska Fairbanks AFES farm was home to the Reindeer Research Program's production research herd of reindeer.
The herd started with less than 20 animals, and peaked at over a hundred in 2006. The herd's purpose was to provide animals and a facility for reindeer production research, which could be combined and compared with research on the free ranging herds of the Seward Peninsula. With changes in research goals the production research herd was reduced and then finally eliminated in September of 2019, as the last 35 animals were transferred to Stevens Village Bison farm.
Our research herd was used primarily for nutritional studies, specifically towards the development of a balanced and cost-effective ration made from Alaskan grown products. A series of feeding trials investigating the ways in which various barleys, hays and protein sources affected both feed palatability and animal performance was conducted over several years.
In addition, we conducted research to study the ways that these various rations affected meat quality and flavor. Reindeer in Alaska are typically free ranged, though there is increasing interest in developing the market by providing supplemental feed or raising animals in a farm type setting. We were interested in comparing the meat of range fed deer to that from farm raised deer, as well as investigating the effects of various protein sources on meat quality. This is a particularly interesting question as it relates to the use of fishmeal as a protein source, since it is well documented that various feedstuffs have the capacity to alter attributes of the meat.
In addition to the RRP's main research projects using the research herd, there were many student projects, student internships, and animal husbandry and health education lessons that were suppported by the research herd.
RRP Public Relations & Outreach
Early on the reindeer production research herd also provided the Reindeer Research Program, with reindeer which were trained to become the most special component of the RRP's public relations and educational outreach.
One of the founding herd members: Elsa, became the first PR deer from the RRP to visit a classroom in April of 1999.
This first visit was followed by many more, and a few other PR reindeer followed in Elsa's hoove prints: Rip, Henry, and Rodger.
This part of our outreach program continues, and if you would like a reindeer educational classroom visit, please contact Erin Carr (with 2 weeks advance notice!) to schedule it.
In addition to reindeer classroom visits, while the production research herd was in existance, the RRP hosted farm tours for classes and other educationally involved groups. Since the production research herd no longer exists, farm tours are no longer conducted.
A facility and reindeer for animal husbandry training.
As the herd and the facility grew, it also developed into a place where reindeer animal husbandry training could be taught and put into practice.
To see pictures of reindeer formerly on the farm, visit the farm gallery.