Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reindeer program offers animal husbandry course

A group from Stevens Village listens as Greg Finstad talks about managing
 reindeer  in the reindeer pens at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

The Reindeer Research Program offered an intensive animal husbandry course to six residents of Stevens Village last week in Fairbanks. The Stevens Village tribal council already has a 2,000-acre buffalo farm south of Delta Junction with 123 animals, but it is considering adding reindeer.

Roberto Burgess, left, and Steve Hjelm look on as
Greg Finstad talks about weighing and handling reindeer.
Erin Carr and George Aguiar help manage the reindeer.
“They’re way easier to manage,” said Steve Hjelm, the farm’s on-site manager, who attended the session at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm. Buffalo are wild animals, he notes, and difficult to manage. 

Hjelm said Stevens Village is very interested in the idea. “There’s a higher demand for reindeer than beef or buffalo.”

While in Fairbanks, the group attended educational sessions to learn about reindeer feed and nutrition, first aid, tagging, calving, halter training, herd handling, recordkeeping, health assessments and meat production. They also viewed reindeer operations at the farm and observed as reindeer were herded, handled and weighed and their hooves trimmed.

Reindeer Research Program Manager Greg Finstad said Stevens Village is looking for different ways to help feed the community since its subsistence harvest is declining. The Tanana Chiefs Conference, Reindeer Research Program and the University of Alaska Anchorage are also generating an economic feasibility study in conjunction with the hands-on experience.

Finstad taught sessions to the Stevens Village group, along with program staff George Aguiar, Darrell Blodgett, Jennifer Robinette and Erin Carr. “We wanted to give them a practical experience to make a more informed decision whether to get reindeer,” he said. 

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