Chinese deer expert Professor Quankai Wang, of Jilin
Agricultural University in northern China, discusses the
quality of velvet, while in Invercargill last week, with
New Zealand Velvet and Trophy Antler Competition judge and
Deer Industry New Zealand marketing manager Rhys Griffiths.
Photos by Allison Rudd.
Deer velvet - still fuzzy and fresh from being cut - is
spread on the table for judging at the New Zealand Velvet and
Trophy Antler Competition at Invercargill's Ascot Park Hotel.
Chinese scholar Quankai Wang, who is attending his third
competition, likes what he sees. He pulls banknotes from his
pocket and offers to buy a specimen, much to the amusement of
''New Zealand deer velvet is number one. It is the best
quality,'' Prof Wang says.
The competition, now in its 32nd year, judges the top antler
and velvet entries from all over the country that have
already done well at regional competitions.
A set of strict international measuring criteria is used, but
as one official says, for hard antlers the general rule is
''the more spikey bits the better''.
The competition culminated in a recent awards dinner attended
by about 200 deer, elk and wapiti farmers and other
associated with the industry.
Deer, elk and wapiti stags grow a new set of antlers every
year. Hard antler is growth from previous years while velvet
is the current year's growth.
Hard antler has little value, but velvet is worth about $100
per kilogram and sales last year were worth about $28 million
to New Zealand farmers.
Most of the velvet was exported frozen in raw form to China
and South Korea where it was highly valued for its health
benefits and processed into powder to be consumed in
medicines and drinks, competition judge and Deer Industry New
Zealand marketing manager Rhys Griffiths, of Wellington,
Deer by-products such as tails and penises, also prized for
traditional Asian medicines, were worth about another $20
million a year in export earnings, he said.
Competition convener Peter Allan said the competition was
''huge'' for deer farmers who ran stud farms.
Competition organisers compiled and distributed a glossy
brochure of the winning entries, which brought kudos for
farmers with award-winning stags and enabled them to get more
money for the progeny of those animals, he said.
''The competition tends to fly under the radar a bit, but for
those of us who are involved it is fascinating.''
He likened the competition to annual racehorse sales which
separated ''the cream of the crop from the also-rans''.
There were 78 entries this year. While farmers prepared all
year for regional and national competitions, farmers wanting
to enter velveted antlers did not know until the last minute
whether they would have suitable entries, Mr Allan said.
Velveted antlers were not cut until December and sometimes
were not at their best until after the competitions had been
held, he said.
Prof Wang, a professor in the Chinese Medicine Materials
College at Jilin Agricultural University in northern China,
has been coming to New Zealand regularly since he was a
visiting scholar at Massey University's deer research unit in
the mid 1990s.
He was in Invercargill as a guest of Deer Industry New
He said Jilin University had had its own Sika deer farm for
more than 30 years. China did not allow imports of New
Zealand deer semen, so New Zealand was the best place in the
world for Chinese traditional medicine manufacturers to
source velvet and by-products, he said.
Some manufacturers imported velvet and by-products from
Russia, but much of that was done through the black market,
whereas New Zealand imports were done legitimately, he said.
Prof Wang said the volume of imports from New Zealand had
almost doubled in the past decade and he could see it
continuing to increase at the same rate ''no problem''.
''I hope the New Zealand deer industry gets bigger and bigger
and the relationship between our two countries gets stronger
Prof Wang said there was also ''huge potential'' for venison
sales in Chinese supermarkets.
Venison exports totalled $198 million last year, with most
meat going to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and
Allcomers Trophy: Lindsay Tayles, Gore (red deer
velvet, 10.54kg), champion; Tikana, Winton (elk/wapiti
velvet,14.62kg), reserve champion.
Elk Supreme: Oraka Deer, Tirau (21.06kg) 1, Mayfield
Elk, Winton (21.1kg) 2, Whyte Farming, Ashburton (16.82kg) 3.
Four-year elk/wapiti: Tikana (14.62kg) 1, Whyte
Farming (12.7kg) 2, Clachanburn Station, Ranfurly (10.9kg) 3.
Three-year elk/wapiti: Tikana (13.64kg) 1, Tikana
(9.46kg) 2, Whyte Farming (8.94kg) 3.
Elk/wapiti (restricted to Southland competitors):
Tikana (14.62kg) 1, Mayfield Elk (21.1kg) 2, Paul and Sharon
Waller, Lumsden (16.28kg) 3.
Open red deer: Lindsay Tayles (10.54kg) 1, Donald and
Kathy Hudson, Timaru (10.16kg) 2, CC Jones, Geraldine
Five-year red deer: Gary and Robin Borland, Otautau
(9.58kg) 1, Bruce and Jenny Paterson, Otautau (11.12kg) 2,
Rata Peak Station, Geraldine (8.1kg) 3.
Four-year red deer: Tower Farms Deer Ltd, Hamilton
(8.38kg) 1, Peter and Dianne Allan, Balfour (8.66kg) 2, Swann
Family, Ashburton (7.86kg) 3.
Three-year red deer: Netherdale, Balfour (9kg) 1, TJ
and MR Cruse, Tuatapere (8.74kg) 2, Netherdale (7.08kg) 3.
Red deer (restricted to Southland competitors): Peter
and Dianne Allan (8.66kg) 1, Gary and Robin Borland, Otautau
(9.58kg) 2, Bruce and Jenny Paterson (11.12kg) 3.
Fallow deer: Pinewood Deer Farm, Helensville (3.32kg)
1, Whyte Farming (3.34kg) 2, Willowbrook Fallow Deer, Timaru
Red deer: Chris and Debra Petersen, Pleasant Point
(15.92kg) 1, Canes Deer, Reporoa (13.08kg) 2, G Lawson and S
Henderson Trojan Deer, Ototohanga (13.56kg) 3.
Elk/wapiti (typical): Whyte Farming (17.36kg) 1, Whyte
Farming (15.3kg) 2, Whyte Farming (10.28kg) 3.
Elk/wapiti (non-typical): Paul and Sharon Waller
(18.26kg) 1, Taringa Elk Farms, Timaru (13.68kg) 2, Whyte
Farming (11.96kg) 3.