1. If I use the guidelines will I get more money for my velvet?
The AEPB can't guarantee the price you will get for your velvet at any given time for that depends on many things including the world economy, politics, and your abilities as a producer and manager. But, overall, collectively, if we producers follow the guidelines, then YES, the value of our velvet will be higher.
Buyers tell us that too much American velvet is overgrown which reduces its potency and, therefore, its quality and value. By following the guidelines, you will have better quality velvet to take to market and you will help American velvet take its rightful place as the best in the world.
2. Will this system replace the International Velvet Competition system?
The AEPB American Elk Velvet Grading Guidelines are not intended to replace or compete with the judging guidelines used in the International Velvet Competition. The IVC identifies the very biggest elk velvet in North America. Elk bulls that grow velvet large enough to compete at the international level are in the top 1% and have special characteristics and abilities.
When producers try to achieve competition status with commercial velvet bulls, they often go too far and the velvet starts to calcify. Calcification destroys the potency of velvet and makes it less valuable on the market. These guidelines are intended to be used by producers that are growing velvet for the commercial markets.
3. How do the guidelines help me know WHEN to harvest?
By giving you concrete measures of the standard. It is now up to you as a producer to manage to the standard. Here are some helpful hints.
Circumference is the most important measurement. Everything else depends upon it. Circumference is the distance around the beam at the smaller of the point right above the trez or halfway between the top and the bottom of the velvet stick. Before harvest time, get a clear picture in your mind of the minimum circumference requirements for each grade. For example, to qualify for Supreme, the velvet beam must be at least as big as a soda pop can (8" circumference). To qualify for grade 2, it must be larger than the hole in a standard toilet paper roll (5" circumference). You will find your own visualizations.
If the beam is large enough to qualify for Supreme, you may allow the antler to grow a small indentation between the 4th and 5th points. If it is not Supreme velvet, allowing it to grow long enough to cause an indentation will drop your velvet into the overgrown category.
The top length is the distance from the top of the stick to the fork where the trez meets the beam. This is the measurement that you have to watch if your circumference does not allow you to qualify for Supreme. Keep the top length below the maximum allowed for your circumference.
Classes Short, Medium, and Long in Grades 1, 2 and 3 further classify velvet and may be used by traditional buyers. Short velvet has the classic shape and proportions of highly desirable velvet. The top length is no longer than the trez. Medium velvet has a longer distance between the bez and trez. Long velvet has a longer top. The various grades and classes allow us to provide consistent product to a wide variety of buyers.
Measure your velvet after you harvest. Compare your tape measurements with your pre-harvest guesses. Learn from your mistakes so that you will improve your timing with the next bull or during the next season. Keep records of measurements for each bull to assist you in your feed and culling management decisions.
Handle velvet appropriately to maintain good value. It must be clean and free of dings and bruises. Seal the cut end with shrink-wrap. Freeze it immediately after removal. Lay the antler along the length of the beam with the cut end slightly elevated. Mishandling reduces the value.
4. Who will grade my velvet?
You will! That's the beauty of it - the measures are concrete and consistent.
The commercial velvet market tools and controls will evolve rapidly as our industry matures. The AEPB will strive to evolve with it, adapting to market requirements and encouraging common and consistent standards.
5. Will velvet buyers use the AEPB system?
Sure. They'll use it because it reflects the world markets. In fact, it is already being used all over the world - we have simply Americanized it. Not every buyer might publicly use it this year as they haven't yet had time to test it. But even if they continue to use their own system, you will find it very compatible with these guidelines.