Quality over weight trend for velvet

Feb 17, 2023

Recent velvet competitions and sire stag sales have showcased the growing trend for quality over weight when it comes to New Zealand deer velvet.

This 12.94kg, 24.61 point velvet from four-year-old red stag Mark, owned by tom Cruse of Cruse Deer in Tuatapere, won this year’s Trish & John Fogarty Deer and Livestock Cup at the NZ National & Trophy Antler Competition.

The focus on the “quality, nice, round, balanced velvet that goes into the SAT grade,” had been spotted at the nine competitions run this year and also in the three-year-old stags offered at the sire sales by judge and PGG Wrightson national deer and velvet manager Tony Cochrane, who attended most of the sales and competitions.

Previous emphasis on weight had pushed a lot of people away from competing five years ago, “because they had a rough idea who had the heaviest heads”, he said.

With the adjustments to velvet grades and judging criteria, growers are now being rewarded for responding to commercial market signals and producing the highest value part of the antler, he says.

“It’s becoming more of a commercial reality because buyers know there’s much more supply, particularly of the Red Super A grades. It’s a way of dissecting the not so good from the sheer difficult to process traditional grades.”

This helps South Korean health food manufacturers – striving to sell the best quality to consumers – to back up their marketing stories. However, there are always anomalies and every season is different, he says. New Zealand Elk velvet has – especially the Russian looking type – “actually been reasonably strong,” this season.

Nine velvet competitions took place around New Zealand from November until now. They were held in Southland, Hawke’s Bay, Central Regions/Taihape-Ruapehu, Kaipara, South Canterbury/North Otago, North Island Velvet Competition, Nelson/Marlborough, the Elk Wapiti Society’s competition in Cromwell and CK Import Export Rising Stars, which will take place in Te Awamutu later this month.

Dave and Jill McGibbon discussing the velvet on show at the pinnacle of the contests, the 40th National and Hard Antler Competition in Invercargill in December. This was delayed from last December, because of Covid.

While there were fewer competitions this year than pre-Covid times, business was almost back to usual. There was a good level of entries at all events and, “generally, the velvet on display was of a very high standard and well presented,” reports DINZ producer manager Lindsay Fung.

The strength of velvet competitions is getting deer farmers together and keeping up-to-date on trends. “What’s being produced on farm is getting bigger and better every year,” says Cochrane.

Thanks to the industry’s research programme, more information is coming out about velvet composition and what that means for the end user.

“We’re heading in the right direction. The stag sales backed up chasing quality over weight, particularly with three-year-old sire stags. Some of the lower place-getters at competition still return some of the best money on the day at stag sales.”

Because of the growing quality trend for deer velvet, there is also now a clear division between breeding stags for velvet development or trophy, he noted.

For full lists of winners and classes for all competitions>>

Continue reading: DINZ news in brief | Issue 95 >>

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