Monday, April 1, 2013

First reindeer calf arrives

Student photographer JR Ancheta visited the farm April 2 and got this shot of mother and baby.

The first reindeer calf of 2013 nestled into the snow Monday afternoon near his mother.
Spring officially arrived March 30 at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, and it was not a robin or even a Canada goose that announced the change of seasons. It was a 14-pound reindeer bull calf.

A student worker went to the farm Saturday morning to feed the reindeer herd, which includes 36 pregnant cows. The wee one's arrival was not unexpected but came a little earlier than the norm, said caretaker Erin Carr. She explained the gestation period is around 220 days and the calves will continue to arrive into May.

Reindeer in the university's research herd are tagged with a number at birth for record-keeping and tracking purposes.According to RRP staff, "We generally give the mother and calf 12 to 24 hours to form a strong bond before we tag and weigh the newborn. If we process the calf too soon, we risk the cow abandoning her calf. If we wait too long, the calf becomes extremely mobile and it could be stressful catching it to tag and weigh." By late summer or early fall when the calves have been weaned from their mothers, they receive names.

Suggestions, which come from school children across the country, are made here. The Reindeer Research Program staff select the ones they like best and assign them to the calves according to the animals' individual traits and personalities.

Generally, the naming website gets hundreds of suggestions. So far this year there have only been three male names and three female names added to the list: JoJo, Joey and Keith; Fuji, Jesi and Gertrude. Teachers are encouraged to have their classrooms submit names.

Since 1981 the RRP has worked to develop and promote the reindeer industry in Alaska. Research focuses on herd management, animal health, nutrition and meat quality. The program is also heavily involved in outreach, sending speakers to schools and inviting students to visit the farm and learn more about these fascinating animals.
A mother reindeer noses her calf Monday afternoon at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

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