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Reindeer Husbandry in Finland
Borders and Rights
Reindeer Areas and Management
Number of Reindeer
Economic Issues
Challenges to Reindeer Husbandry
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Number of Reindeer
In the beginning of the 20th century, the number of reindeer in Finland was slightly over 100,000, and by 1959-60 it had reached 140,000. Short-term fluctuations in the size of the reindeer herd have occurred over the past century. During the 1970’s and 1980’s the number increased rapidly and reached over 250,000 reindeer at a maximum.

The maximum number of reindeer was consequently lowered from a previous high of 220,900 animals to 203,700 in 2004/2005. The number of reindeer in Finland was about 207,000 reindeer in 2004/2005.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (Maa- ja metsätalousministeriö) regulates the number of reindeer by confirming the largest permissible numbers of living reindeer for each district. This takes place every ten years. The reindeer are counted after slaughtering when reindeer are drawn from the herd and before reindeer calving starts in May. But every year, before the districts autumn meeting, each reindeer herding district plans the number of reindeer to be slaughtered. The reindeer herding districts must obey Ministry regulations in their activities and keep the number of reindeer to the regulated levels. If the number of reindeer in a district exceeds the permitted level, the State Provincial Offices of Oulu and Lapland can order compulsory culling. In such a case, the district must reduce the number of its reindeer to below the largest permissible number.

The largest permissible number of reindeer owned by a reindeer husbandry entrepreneur is 300 animals in the southern region of the reindeer husbandry area and 500 animals in the northern parts of the area. If there are special reasons, then the ministry can decide new numbers. Maximum numbers are primarily based on the capacity of the winter pastures. The state controls the number of live reindeer through a so-called live support paid to individual reindeer owners. In order to receive support it is required that owners have at least 80 reindeer and 300 or 500 reindeer at most.

The Finnish system where other people than Sámi can also own reindeer, has led to a much higher number of reindeer owners compared with Norway and Sweden. A large part of the reindeer owners in Finland have a very low number of reindeer. Statistics show that about 4100 people, or approximately 77.6 % of all reindeer owners have between 1-49 reindeer, and the income from reindeer herding for these people is only a supplementary income to normal paid work. About 1540 families are working with reindeer and for 690 of those, their primary income is from reindeer herding. Around 75 % of the reindeer owners are male and 25 % female.

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