Reindeer Forage and Supplementary Feeding in a Changing Climate  
Poron ravinto ja lisäruokinta muuttuvassa ilmastossa

Contact person: Dr Minna Turunen
Research group: Global change and Sustainable Development

Start of the project : 2008
End of the project : 2010

Report in Finnish (pdf)

The central aim of this research is to produce new information for the model of good reindeer feeding and  develop methods for supplementary feeding so that the possible harmful ecological effects would be minimal.  The  project studies experimentally the influence of supplementary feeding on plant species composition of the field layer and characteristics of the soil in a changing climate. The anthropological  part of the project studies the knowledge of reindeer herders on reindeer feeding and related traditions.

Reindeer herding and its operational environment have changed in many ways in Finnish Lapland  during the last decades. Reindeer herding has to meet new challenges due to climate change and changing socio-economical factors.  At the same time, it has to compete with other land use forms and activities, such as forestry, industrialization, building, mining industry and tourism. On the other hand, it has been  possible to transfer the inputs of traditional agriculture (fields, machines) to the use of reindeer herding.  Also the  EU support for agriculture  has indirectly strengthened the position of reindeer herding. In many regions, the area of  reindeer pasture land has  decreased and the quality of pastures  has deteriorated due to other land use forms  and intensive grazing. Also mechanisation of reindeer herding, regulations of meat production, antiparasite medication, supplementary feed and other factors have raised  the expenses of reindeer herding during the past decades.

During the recent years,  availability of reindeer winter forage has deteriorated due to changing winter climate. Consequences of extreme weathers, such as ice layer formed  on the surface of the  snowless soil and vegetation or  within the snow cover and/or exceptionally thick snow cover have aggravated digging conditions of reindeer  and availability of forage.  This has a clear connection to the  calf percentage of the next summer, mortality rate of calves and the weight of  calves in the fall via the state of the dams. Supplementary feeding will secure the survival of reindeer during winters with exceptional weather conditions (emergency feeding), make herding easier, and to keep reindeer in certain district and to keep their number and status stable. Supplementary feeding also reduces grazing pressure. Feeding can be done principally by two ways: by taking forage to the field and by keeping reindeer in domestic farms during the winter.

Feeding reindeers  - video film from the research site by Jouni Puoskari.

We will find answers to the following questions:

  1. How does  supplementary feeding  of reindeer influence the characteristics of dry heath type forest soil and plant species composition of the field layer in a changing climate?
  2. How could supplementary feeding methods be developed further so that possible harmful ecological effects could be minimal?
  3. What is the knowledge of reindeer herders about  feeding in different times and what is the knowledge transfer of feeding practices?
  4. How do reindeer behave in feeding places as individuals and groups? How can feeding situation be guided so that also weak reindeer and calves get enough food besides strong reindeer?

This research will be conducted in reindeer herding districts of  Hammastunturin paliskunta, Oraniemen paliskunta and Kuukkaan paliskunta in co-operation with local reindeer herders.  Research is based on exchange of know-how between the southern and northern reindeer herding districts, feeding experiments in the field, monitoring of reindeer, vegetation mapping, interviews of reindeer herders and participatory observation in common field work.

Results of this project will be useful for the development of  reindeer herding as a source of livelihood particularly in those northern reindeer herding districts where supplementary winter feeding has not yet been introduced, but which will be most probably introduced in the coming years. This multidisciplinary project lasts three years  (2008-2010) and it is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.


  • Dr Minna Turunen, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
  • Reseacher Terhi Vuojala-Magga,  Arctic Centre, University of Lapland and Reindeer Herding District  Hammastunturin paliskunta, Finland
  • Professor  Marja-Liisa Sutinen, Finnish Forest Research Institute, Rovaniemi Research Unit, Finland
  • Reindeer herders Jaana Magga and Jarmo Haataja, Reindeer Herding District Hammastunturin paliskunta, Kutturan tokkakunta, Finland
  • Head of the reindeer herding district Juhani Maijala,  Reindeer Herding District  Oraniemen paliskunta, Sodankylä, Finland
  • Head of the reindeer herding district Rainer Tuomaala,  Reindeer Herding District  Kuukaan paliskunta, Pudasjärvi, Finland


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More information

Dr. Minna Turunen
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland