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Book chapter - Peer-reviewed, 2022

The productive herd. Past, present and perspectives

Holand, Øystein; Mäki-Tanila, Asko; Kvalnes, Thomas; Muuttoranta, Kirsi; Paoli, Amélie; Pietarinen, Jaakko; Weladji, Robert B.; Åhman, Birgitta


Traditionally the multipurpose reindeer herd supplied an array of products from both live and slaughtered animals. After the transportation revolution and integration into the market economy in the 1960s and 1970s, however, the focus was directed towards maximizing meat production. Research carried out at the time revealed that the females’ adult body mass was an appropriate proxy for their production potential. Herd composition, selection and slaughter strategies were reformed. A winter herd composed predominantly of productive females with a spring body mass of around 70 kg and herd size not exceeding the available winter resources will yield a high percentage of calves to be slaughtered in autumn. Economic incentives and imposed regulations contributed to this transformation. However, these modern production imperatives were not necessarily compatible with the herders’ traditional values. Indeed, meat productivity varies between and within countries. This chapter discusses abiotic and biotic factors, genetics, as well as management practices that may influence these differences. Herds in good condition are able to withstand and adapt to ongoing climate change and frequent weather extremes. Integrating resilience to environmental variability into reindeer breeding programmes may improve the capacity of the production system.

Published in

Earthscan Studies in Natural Resource Management
2022, pages: 191-210
Book title: Reindeer Husbandry and Global Environmental Change : Pastoralism in Fennoscandia
ISBN: 978-0-367-63267-0, eISBN: 978-1-003-11856-5
Publisher: Routledge

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    Animal and Dairy Science

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