Northern Michigan in Focus: Reindeer Baby Boom

When you think of reindeer, typically Christmas comes to mind.

It is their season, helping Santa deliver gifts to children all over the world.

But some of the animals also call Northern Michigan home and, as Michelle Dunaway and Corey Adkins show us, it’s a year round operation.

It’s this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

"This is actually the best time of the year for me. I enjoy it even more than Christmas," says Dave Aldrich, Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farm.

What could be better than Christmas on a reindeer farm?

A baby boom.

It’s calving season at the Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farm in Clare.

This story started last August.

We visited the farm when Prancer was in rut, and now these are his babies.

"Very healthy calves so far this year, so that makes us happy. Five is a pretty good year for us. Years and years ago we used to have 12-15 born a year, but we don’t keep a heard near that size anymore. We’re very happy with 4-5 calves each year," explains Dave.

While it doesn’t get much cuter than this, it’s a whole lot of work for Dave and the rest of his team.

"They’re usually born in the morning around sunrise. We try to be with them when they’re born, so I’m out here every morning around 5 waiting for babies. As soon as they’re born I’m with them, and I bond with them at that point. The first couple of hours of their life are the most important time to bond with the baby," explains Dave.

That bonding continues almost constantly during the beginning of their lives, desensitizing the animals to humans. 

"I’m with them every couple of hours for the first few days, so I don’t get a lot of sleep. We’ll rotate so someone’s with them every couple three hours, spending time with them. Then they start working every day. It’s a process, it takes a couple hundred hours before they’re completely trained and we know what they’re going to do," says Dave.

This training is so important, because these little ones will be on the job before they know it.

"Every day they have to learn something, because it won’t be too long and they’ll be traveling around, and they’ll be visiting schools and libraries, and they’ll be at Christmas parades and such, so we get them ready for any situation that’s going to come along in their lifetime so they’re comfortable around humans," says Dave.

They’re already starting to get it at just 24 hours old, but one thing these babies don’t have yet: names.

"We have five reindeer we have to name. It has to be something somewhat original, we don’t want to reuse Santa’s reindeer names. So if anyone has some ideas for us, we’d love to hear them," says Dave.

If you think Dave’s worried about another famous four legged baby stealing the spotlight, think again.

"The good thing about reindeer is they can fly. You seldom see one of those giraffe’s flying, so," says Dave.

There will be an open house the third weekend in June to meet the new babies.

If you have a good name in mind for one of them, you may submit it here.

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