Deer antlers keep getting bigger
Deer farmers will battle it out for the biggest and best hard antler and velvet tonight in Te Anau.
Judges spent yesterday measuring and weighing entries in the Wapiti Celebration and Velvet Competition run by the Elk Wapiti Society of New Zealand and Fiordland New Zealand Deer Farmers Association.
The two organisations have introduced initiatives to attract more people this year, including a New Zealand-first antler art competition, deer-hide fashion parade, and a new entrant category to draw in new competitors.
Elk Wapiti Society of New Zealand committee member Paul Waller said from what the judges saw before the competition, the standard of hard antler and velvet were extremely high.
Intensive deer farming was only 30 years old in New Zealand so with each year, the average size and weight of the antlers and velvet were increasing, he said.
The genetic makeup of the New Zealand farmed deer was also being enhanced by cross-breeding with North American elk, Mr Waller said.
A bull elk was crossed with a red deer hind to produce a fast growing fawn suited for its meat, he said.
Along with the competition, deer farmers would be able to buy elk semen for breeding programmes.
The antlers and velvet were popular ingredients in oriental medicines and in sport supplements, Mr Waller said. "Antlers and velvet have been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicines."
An auction will be held to raise money for research into conception rates of artificial insemination in elk.
The public can view the entries, and the entertainment including the fashion parade and a venison dinner for ticket-holders starts at 5.30pm at the Fiordland Community Events Centre.
Mr Waller said there were still a limited number of tickets left for the event.
The Southland Times