A deer’s antler is the fastest growing animal tissue. It can grow back year after year, within two to three months from the time velvet antlers begin to grow. When a deer’s antlers are young, they are covered in soft furry velvet. This is the stage where elk velvet antler is harvested. Known as antler velvet, it is composed of highly vascularized tissues that have been found to contain high amounts of substances that can regenerate, repair and rejuvenate tissue cells.
Elk antler velvet has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. When it was discovered by the western world, elk and deer farms have opened where velveting, the harvesting of elk velvet antler, can be done in a safe, quality-controlled environment, that is beneficial both to the deer or elk and the company that produces elk antler velvet in commercial forms (pills, capsules or spray).
Velveting: Harvesting Elk Antler Velvet
It is harvested annually throughout the animal’s (called “stags”) productive life, which lasts from age two to about age fifteen. Farmers watch carefully and record the date that each of a stag’s antler "buttons" are shed, which usually happens in February and March.
Velveting involves the surgical removal of velvet antler from male deer (stags). The animal is sedated, restrained, and given an appropriate local anesthetic to prevent pain. After an appropriate time delay that allows the anesthetic to take effect, a rubber tourniquet is applied to the base of each antler, and the antler is surgically removed.
Utmost care and standard safety practices have been passed into law, especially in countries where deer farms are abundant like New Zealand and Australia, to ensure that velveting will be a humane practice.
Once harvesting of velvet is done, deer is usually free to roam, without feeling any side effects from the procedure.
The harvested velvet is then frozen, sterilized, sliced and then manufactured to what are the available forms in the market today.