Children delighted with Reindeer at Holiday Cheer event
With visions of Santa and his reindeer and sleigh on their Christmas Eve visit in the minds of children around the world, local children had the opportunity to see a pair of real, live reindeer at the Holiday Cheer Event hosted by St. John’s Circle of Care Thursday afternoon.
The reindeer weren’t Santa’s reindeer, but descendants, we learned from the owners and operators of Bluestem Reindeer Ranch, who brought the animals to Springfield.
The Advance-Press Editor learned from the owners and operators of Bluestem Reindeer Ranch that reindeer are fascinating animals with an amazing history.
Reindeer are related to Caribou, but are slightly smaller. They have been a farmed animal in Scandinavia and Siberia for several centuries, and in Alaska since around 1900.
Most reindeer in the USA are descendants of reindeer that were imported into Alaska during the gold rush at the end of the 1800s. Today reindeer are raised on farms throughout the U.S., from Florida to New York to Alaska. The Bluestem Ranch’s reindeer came from reindeer farms in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.
Both male and female reindeer grow antlers. They grow a new set every year. The reindeer at Bluestem Ranch will drop their antlers in March and immediately start growing a new set. Growing antlers are soft and covered in short hairs, called velvet. In September the antlers turn hard and the reindeer rub the velvet off.
The reindeer have a thick winter coat, made up of several layers including a layer of hollow hairs. This helps with insulation and also helps with buoyancy when swimming. They shed their thick coats in June, after which they have a dark brown summer coat
Baby reindeer are born in the early spring, and weigh 8 to 14 lbs. at birth. Twins are rare for reindeer. The babies also start growing their first set of antlers just a few weeks after being born.
Farmed reindeer eat a diet of hay and a feed mix similar to a horse feed. They also like to graze on a grass and clover pasture.
Bluestem Reindeer Ranch have been keeping and raising reindeer for 5+ years, and are members of the Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association (ROBA). This is an association of people throughout North America dedicated to reindeer health and well-being. ROBA is involved in animal health issues and the support of reindeer-related research. In order to keep reindeer in Minnesota, the herd must be registered with the state and participate in annual inspections. As licensed USDA exhibitors, we are subject to Federal oversight in the form of inspections and various care and paperwork requirements and reports.