Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New reindeer calves at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm

On Saturday, April 5, the Reindeer Research Program's first two calves of 2014 were born, a male weighing 6.4 kg (14 lbs) and a female weighing 5.9 kg (13 lbs). It was a snowy beginning for the youngsters, but they weren't the first reindeer in the Interior! Archipelago Farms' herd had a hefty newborn male calf (17.25 lbs) on April 1. (George Aguiar, who founded Archipelago, is an alumnus of SNRE and works with the Reindeer Research Program.)
Cow and new female calf  at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

Most calves are born in April and May, so in anticipation of their births, farm staff begin checking the pens and pastures three times a day, monitoring any cows in labor. New mothers and their young are left alone together for at least 12 hours and preferably a full day to bond and for observation. After this period is over, calves are tagged, weighed, and swabbed with iodine solution to prevent infections, and then returned to their mothers. While the youngsters are at first wobbly on their long legs, this doesn't last, and catching them for weighing can be tricky if the observation period is too long.

By tradition, the calves are named later in the summer, with names drawn from a list of suggestions offered by the public. You can see the names of the current reindeer, the names suggested for 2014, and offer your own suggestion here.

Erin Carr, herd manager, disentangling the female calf's leg from the fence. The calf's mother was at first very upset by this, but Carr spoke quietly and calmly to the cow, and she relaxed and let Carr release the calf.

Once the calf was freed, the cow nudged her baby, encouraging it to get up. 

Then they left, the calf on its wobbly legs following its mother and complaining.

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