Velvet is the growing tissue precursor of antlers on male deer ( stags ). It contains blood vessels and nerves when it is actively growing in the spring and these recede as the velvet becomes fully grown and begins to harden in preparation for the mating season ( rut ) in the autumn. Farmed male deer in New Zealand have been selected now for many years for velvet production such that a top red stag may produce 9-10kg of velvet.
Treatment / Management It would not be safe to farm deer with hard antlers and these must therefore be removed. In New Zealand they are removed from farmed red, fallow and wapiti deer before they start to harden and this is subsequently sold in dried form as health tonics , particularly to Korea and China, but increasingly into the Western Health market. ( Fallow velvet is removed for safety reasons but it has very limited commercial value. ) There is a very diverse range of health benefits claimed by those marketing velvet products, and these are now beginning to stand up to scientific scrutiny.
This velvet is painlessly removed by a veterinarian or a farmer. The farmer must be trained and certified under a national quality assurance scheme to ensure that all welfare requirements are met.