Some farmers hire others to custom raise their calves and heifers. Santa does the same.
Marge Baird has been raising reindeer on her Kansasville Farm for about 20 years and this time of year she is kept busy taking them to parties and events.
Reindeer calves are dark chocolate color or black when they are born. Their average weight is just nine to twelve pounds. Calves are born 224 days after they are bred.
Baird says, “Mother’s milk is their main diet but they begin nibbling on grass and grain within a week or so.”
ANTLERS ARE HUGE
At three weeks of age they begin to grow their antlers.
She clarifies, “Antlers are not horns. Males and females have them and there are no two alike.”
She says, “The antler size is determined by a combination of genetics, nutrition and age of the animal. Antlers grow velvet until September and then they rub the velvet off, leaving the hard antler.”
Antlers begin to drop off in about December through April and the replacements begin to grow immediately.
She notes, “Cows are smaller than the bulls. Reindeer are one of the only species of deer that also have antlers usually dropping off after the calves are born.”
Antlers on a bull can get to be three to four feet tall and weigh up to 400 pounds.
She says, “Bulls have larger antlers than cows and the largest rack growth is at five to six years of age.”
Breeding season is in October or November and the bulls tend to drop their antlers after breeding season.
Reindeer are not a lot different than bovines to feed. They get a mixture of grain and minerals and vitamins with high quality alfalfa hay. They also get a mineral salt block.
Other favorites include willow leaves, oat hay, beet pulp, steamed rolled oats, apples, carrots, dandelions, clover and tree bark.