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Feeding of reindeer and diseases associated with feeding

Josefsen TD, Sundset MA. Fôring og fôringsbetingede sjukdommer hos rein. [Feeding of reindeer and diseases associated with feeding]. Norsk veterinærtidsskrift 2014; 126(2): 160-169 (In Norwegian with English summary).

Reindeer husbandry in Norway is based on field pastures all through the year, but snow conditions in winter can make the pasture unavailable to the reindeer, and feeding may be necessary. Reindeer pellets, hay, silage/silage bales and lichens are the most important types of feed for reindeer. Reindeer is an intermediate type of ruminant, adapted to eat both herbs, leaves and grasses, but with limited ability to digest fibrous roughage. Reindeer are particularly adapted to eat lichens in winter. Lichens contain phenolic compounds that are toxic to bacteria, but in the reindeer rumen the newly discovered bacterium, Eubacterium rangiferina, has been shown to be resistant to the antibiotic usnic acid in lichens. Different diseases are associated with feeding: Grass belly is seen in reindeer fed fibrous roughage. Rumen volume expands while the reindeer becomes emaciated. Rumen acidosis is due to feeding too large amounts of easily digestible carbohydrates without sufficient adaption. Diarrhea in reindeer is usually associated with feeding, and may be a symptom in rumen acidosis, or caused by otherwise unsuitable feed. Wet belly is a disease associated with feeding, in which the reindeer starts sweating so that the fur of the ventral chest and abdomen get wet. The disease occurs sporadically, and the cause is unknown. Constipation may occur, but scientific evidence is scarce. Bloat is reported to occur. Deficiencies of vitamins or minerals are rare in reindeer. Winter feeding of reindeer has become more common in Norway the last decades due to increased knowledge about feeding and increased feed availability.

NVI authors

Josefsen Terje Domaas

Veterinary pathologist (permisjon)