Reindeer herding is a major livelihood in Utsjoki. There are ten times as many reindeer in Utsjoki as there are people. The present reindeer herding has begun at the end of the Middle Ages when the Sámi people started to herd reindeer. Reindeer herding is a traditional livelihood and a strong Sámi and Norther-Finnish cultural heritage is connected to it. Reindeer herding skills are handed down from one generation to another.
There are regional differences in reindeer herding practices within Finland as well. There are two reindeer grazing associations in the Utsjoki region, the Kaldoaivi and Paistunturi grazing associations. In the Sustainable Tourism in Utsjoki project, responsible reindeer herding practices were explored in the two Utsjoki grazing associations. For example, the following came up:
- When gathering reindeer for a reindeer round-up, drones are used to make the work more efficient and to minimise driving around in the nature.
- The wintertime fodder used in feeding the reindeer is purchased locally whenever possible
- The reindeer can implement their natural pasture cycle in the Utsjoki region, for there are no partitions in the area. This promotes the well-being of the reindeer and makes it easier for other wanderers to move around in the terrain.
- The slaughtering of the reindeer happens locally in part, and a large amount of reindeer meat is sold to local downstream producers, which shortens the transport distances and supports the local economy.
- Maintaining a reindeer herding culture is promoted with local school, for example by the students being able to add to their field trip fund by reindeer husbandry work. In addition, the Skalluvaara reindeer round-up school is the only one of its kind in Finland: the children go to regular school and also participate in reindeer work.
Reindeer herding and taking care of the well-being of the reindeer lies deep in our local culture and way of life. Please let the reindeer walk in peace as they graze in the nature of Utsjoki around the year. By providing distance, you enable the natural pasture cycle of the reindeer and the staying together of the herd, which promotes low-carbon activities and protects the reindeer from predators.
It is a fine experience to observe a reindeer round-up, but it is also a careful business and an important reindeer husbandry event. Please attend on permission of the host of the reindeer association only.
More information on how to pay attention to the reindeer when moving around in the nature and traffic can be found here.