Summer Tips for Reindeer Farmers

We’ve had more than our share of 90 degree days here in Michigan this year. Our reindeer are doing fine with the fans we provide and having access to plenty of water.

We’ve noticed in past years that the reindeer, especially the younger ones, tend to get diarrhea if even a small amount of algae is allowed to form in the water. So we spend a lot of time keeping our tanks clean. [With the drought here in Alberta, algae grow more quickly. Certain types are poisonous to livestock. There have been reports of deaths in cattle due to drinking water with algae. Ed.]

Keep a close eye on those growing antlers, especially on the base. Those moist antler bases in velvet are a favorite place for flies to deposit their eggs. Soon you have a head full of maggots. Every year we hear of deer that have died from this problem. It happens fairly fast.

If your deer are calm and you can catch them or run them through a chute, you can treat this problem easily. If not, I have used a product that works very well. It shoots a stream of fly killer 10 to 15 feet quite accurately. It is called Catron IV. I purchase it from my vet to keep on hand in case we need it. It works instantly, killing all flies and maggots and forces them to fall off the head.

Catron is used in the cattle business so I’m sure most large animal vets carry it or a similar product. If those fly eggs hatch around the antlers, you can get hundreds of maggots in just 3 or 4 days. They eat away the flesh until they invade the brain cavity and kill the animal. The few times I have seen this problem, it always seems to be with a bull, but could happen with any animal growing antlers. (Unlike deer and elk, reindeer cows also grow antlers).

Another thing to remember with the breeding season approaching is to loosen those halters. Better still, remove them from the bulls before their necks begin to swell. Otherwise they get so ornery that you can’t deal with them. A loose-fitting halter in the summer can be too restrictive and damaging when a bull begins growing his winter coat and goes into rut.

We’re getting a number of calls for school visits already for this winter. They have proven to be very popular in the past. We have done quite a number of schools for several years now. It’s both rewarding for the schools, as they cut back on field trips, and financially rewarding for us in helping with the feed bills. Don’t let schools fool you – they have plenty of money for things that are unique and educational.

School visits would also increase awareness and support for the industry as well as bring financial benefits. More deer and elk farmers should consider agri-tourism activities.

Source: Dave Aldrich, Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farm, Michigan, Reprinted from The ROBA Review, Summer 2002.