Published 2017

Read in Norwegian

Publication details

Publisher : NIBIO

International Standard Numbers :
Printed : 978-82-17-01840-7

Publication type : Report

Contributors : Jørgensen, Grete Helen Meisfjord; Mejdell, Cecilie Marie; Stubsjøen, Solveig Marie; Özkan Gülzari, Şeyda; Rødbotten, Rune; Bårdsen, Bård-Jørgen; Rødven, Rolf

Series : NIBIO Rapport 55

Year : 2017

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Kjetil Aune
Chief Librarian


The aim of this project was to identify different factors that might affect welfare of reindeer and that could be implemented in the production systems, on pasture, in fences, at the slaughterhouse, through product marking and future quality systems. In later years there has been an increased focus on animal health and welfare in reindeer production. Negative focus has been enhanced by media with reports of low carcass weights, especially in Finnmark, and with reduced meat quality and bad reputation for the reindeer industry as a result. Animal stress during handling has in addition to this, been shown to give negative effects on meat quality and shelf life. Using simple and practical welfare indicators, the welfare of other production animals in agriculture have been systematically evaluated. If a similar system for the assessment of reindeer welfare could be developed, it would contribute to a economic and cultural sustainable industry. Food chains, processers and consumers demand large carcasses of good quality. With a documentation of good animal welfare throughout the value chain, the marketing of reindeer products would be improved and markets could also expand. Animal welfare could be defined as “the individual’s subjective experience of its mental and physical condition as regards its attempt to cope with its environment”. Welfare indicator will thus be a selection of simple, easy to measure factors or conditions of the animal and/or the production environment. The challenge was here to suggest correct factors that also were practically adjusted to the animal species and the needs of the reindeer industry. A good welfare indicator will tell a lot about the animals welfare, it is easy to measure and is measured the same by different observers. Welfare indicators can be measured on the animal itself (animal based indicators) and its living environment (resource based indicators). Production parameters (carcass weights and –composition) may be included, but with careful interpretation. Good production results and nice carcasses are not a guarantee for good animal welfare per se, while low calving percentage, small and skinny carcasses definitively may indicate deficiencies in the animal environment. Modern reindeer production involves many benefits regarding animal welfare compared to animal production in agriculture. The reindeer are allowed to range free on pastures all year round where they can utilize nature resources, without the limiting factors of a barn environment and its limitations on instincts and natural behaviour. Norwegian reindeer are also relatively healthy and have few infectious diseases in the current population. Based on other standardized forms with checkboxes developed for agriculture, the researchers in the present project have suggested a selection of questions that may be used for self-control and documentation of good management in the reindeer herd throughout the year. These questions are not comprehensive but meant as a first draft. Other checkpoints and questions might be more relevant for other local conditions and needs. A review of the flock twice a year can reveal both strengths and weaknesses of own management and motivate for improvements where most needed. If questions are formulated correctly, they may also raise awareness on rules and regulations and function as advice on how flock management could be optimized. Such documentation may in turn be used as a tool when applying for subsidies or preventive measures from the government administration. Slaughter houses may also use the documentation as criteria for good quality and give extra price for meat that is suited for distribution as fresh produce.