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Published: 2021-02-03

Nordic knowledge on challenges and opportunities with supplementary feeding of reindeer

NEWS Climate, difficult winter weather and declining forage resources due to competition with other land users make it increasingly difficult for reindeer to find their own food, so that reindeer herders can be forced to provide supplementary feeding. A newly published report on supplementary feeding as a collaborative process between reindeer herders from Norway, Sweden and Finland and researchers illustrates the many trade-offs and challenges involved.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

The report originates from a two-day workshop held in Kiruna in 2018, when the research networks CLINF, ReiGN and REXSAC arranged the event together with reindeer herders from Norway, Sweden and Finland. Researchers with different academic backgrounds were present to join in the discussions. The overall aim was to connect multiple knowledge systems – amongst herders, and between herders and researchers and across borders and languages – to address supplementary feeding from different perspectives.

“Our aim was to create an opportunity for reindeer herders to share and exchange their knowledge and experiences with supplementary feeding, as different strategies exist between the countries”, says Tim Horstkotte, one of the main organizers of the workshop together with Camilla Risvoll, Nordlandsforskning in Norway and Élise Lépy, Oulu University in Finland.

He continues:

“Where different experiences and knowledge can be exchanged and combined, they may help to find solutions and develop a better understanding of how to respond the challenges at present and in the future.”   


During the workshop, herders discussed similarities and differences how supplementary feeding is applied in the three countries. They also emphasized how important such an exchange was to learn from each other.

While supplementary feeding is a response to for example difficult snow conditions, a decrease of grazing resources due to other forms of land use or the presence of carnivores, it is not considered a long-term solution, as it does not solve the underlying problems. Furthermore, increased necessity of supplementary feeding may increase the risk of diseases or change reindeer behavior in yet unknown ways. It may also threaten reindeer husbandry traditions, as well as the intergenerational transfer of experience-based knowledge.

The report was written in collaboration with the participating reindeer herders, to make sure that their voices are represented correctly in their context.

“Several rounds of exchange and translations into several languages took lots of time. The Sámi translation was important for us, because it is a central part in the culture for Sámi reindeer herders to use their own language” says Tim Horstkotte.

The report now is available in Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, English and Northern Sámi. Read the report

More information about the different research networks:

CLINF. Climate change effects on the epidemiology of infectious diseases and the impacts on Northern societies

REXSAC. Resource Extraction and Sustainable Arctic Communities REXSAC - A Nordic Centre of Excellence 

ReiGN. Reindeer husbandry in a Globalizing North

For more information, please contact:

Tim Horstkotte
Staff scientist