What is Velvet Antler?
The generic term 'Deer Velvet' is the name given to the antlers of the male Deer and Elk (Wapiti) while they are still in the soft growing cartilaginous stage. The remarkable growth rate of the animal's antlers is unique in nature. What is also different about it is that it is a cyclic event that takes place each year during the life of the animal from the time it reaches approx. 9 months old until death at perhaps 12-18 years of age.
Each year the old antler is caste by the action of the new growth initiating from the pedicle, and each year until age 10-12 generally they will grow a bigger heavier set until in their declining years. After age 12-14 the antlers tend to also decline in size and statue.
As the new growth grows it developes the tynes or points that assist in making the antlers so successful as offensive and defensive weapons. While that is taking place the immature antler, or Velvet as it is called, is soft and warm to the touch, is a lot larger in diameter, and the growing points or tips are a lot more rounded than those of the hard full grown Antler.
The growing antler is made up of cartilage protected by the 'furry' skin covering from which it gets it name. Blood flows up the outside of the Velvet just under that skin to carry the rich supply of nutrients, proteins, and building blocks to the rapidly growing tissue tips before returning to the animals body down the center of the antler beam.
If allowed to complete their growth cycle (approx.120-125 days) hormonal activity cuts off the blood supply and the animal completes the calcification of the antler into hard bone and then proceeds to strip the dying skin covering from the antler in preparation for the breeding season.
For use as a premium health supplement or tonic the Velvet must be harvested when it is still in its actively growing stage, before calcification begins to set in. This is usually at the half grown stage just before the development of the top fighting or dagger tynes, at between 60-65 days growth.
How does this removal affect the animal?
These animals are very valuable and the welfare of the animal is therefore paramount. The removal of the Velvet Antler from the animal is carried in compliance with a strict Velveting Code of Practice by either Veterinarians, or Qualified persons under veterinary supervision, and the effect on the animal is minimised and minimal.
It is a relatively quick and painless proceedure and the animals are immediately released to graze. However if the weather is inclement they are kept inside and hand- fed to avoid any risk of infection or stress.
Quite apart from removal of the antler for its health supplement properties, it has been accepted practise to remove it to avoid animals damaging or injuring each other by fighting; getting caught up in fences and injuring themselves, or perhaps causing their own death. It is also done to avoid risk to those farming and handling them.
Modified on: Wed, 16 Aug, 2017 at 12:21 PM
What is Velvet Antler?
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