Is the maternal condition important for domesticated reindeer calf survival?

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

Abstract: There are many challenges within reindeer husbandry in Sweden. There are climate changes, predator problems, and exploitations to mention some of them. The reindeer population contains of 65-70 % females and thus, represent the main part of the population. Studies have been made on productivity and calf survival with results showing that the weight and condition of the female is positively correlated with calf survival. Two reindeer-herding districts (Udtja and Gällivare) in northern Sweden suffer from high bear predation and this study was performed to see if maternal conditions affect calf survival within these districts. Females were weighed and tested for pregnancy in April 2011 and 2012. In June, during calf marking, observations were made to register whether or not the females reared a calf. Mean weights were calculated in both districts with the purpose to determine a difference between the districts. In 2011 there was a significant difference in mean weight (t.test=, P<0.0001), but in 2012, the difference was weakly significant (t.test=, P<0.082). Between the two districts in total mean weight, the difference was significant (t.test=, P<0.0001). Udtja had the highest mean weights in both 2011 and 2012, as well in total. The observations during calf marking showed that Gällivare district had the highest calf survival with survival rates of 56.7 % in Gällivare, whereas Udtja only had 42.0 %. It was not possible to determine the importance of good maternal condition based on the results from the present study, even though other studies within the same subject found correlations between good condition in females and calf survival.

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