Breeding schemes in reindeer husbandry

  • Lars Rönnegård Dep. of Animal Breeding and Genetics, SLU, S-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
  • J. A. Woolliams Roslin Institute (Edinburgh), Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9PS, UK
  • Öje Danell Dep. of Animal Breeding and Genetics, SLU, S-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Keywords: gene flow, maternal effects, random mating, Rangifer t. tarandus, rate of inbreeding, subpopulations, reindeer husbandry, reindeer, genetics, breeding


The objective of the paper was to investigate annual genetic gain from selection (G), and the influence of selection on the inbreeding effective population size (Ne), for different possible breeding schemes within a reindeer herding district. The breeding schemes were analysed for different proportions of the population within a herding district included in the selection programme. Two different breeding schemes were analysed: an open nucleus scheme where males mix and mate between owner flocks, and a closed nucleus scheme where the males in non-selected owner flocks are culled to maximise G in the whole population. The theory of expected long-term genetic contributions was used and maternal effects were included in the analyses. Realistic parameter values were used for the population, modelled with 5000 reindeer in the population and a sex ratio of 14 adult females per male. The standard deviation of calf weights was 4.1 kg. Four different situations were explored and the results showed: 1. When the population was randomly culled, Ne equalled 2400. 2. When the whole population was selected on calf weights, Ne equalled 1700 and the total annual genetic gain (direct + maternal) in calf weight was 0.42 kg. 3. For the open nucleus scheme, G increased monotonically from 0 to 0.42 kg as the proportion of the population included in the selection programme increased from 0 to 1.0, and Ne decreased correspondingly from 2400 to 1700. 4. In the closed nucleus scheme the lowest value of Ne was 1300. For a given proportion of the population included in the selection programme, the difference in G between a closed nucleus scheme and an open one was up to 0.13 kg. We conclude that for mass selection based on calf weights in herding districts with 2000 animals or more, there are no risks of inbreeding effects caused by selection.
How to Cite
Rönnegård, L., Woolliams, J. A., & Danell, Öje. (2003). Breeding schemes in reindeer husbandry. Rangifer, 23(2), 45-55.