Velvet Information

[Velvet Competitions] [Grading]
[Velvet Products]

It is a myth that the number of points on a bull determines the age of the bull. The size of the hard antler racks is determined by genetics and healthy feeding. Many elk ranchers have two year old bulls with at least 6x6 racks. The full hard antlers are grown in about 12-14 weeks (85-100) days.  Bulls which may not be good velvet bulls could still be good shooter bulls as seen on the Hunting Ranches page.

The Cervidae family is the only animal which can produce these antlers every year.The antlers can actually grow up to an inch a day. The animal is producing blood in large amounts to grow the antlers. When the antlers reach a certain stage, they harden, similar to bones, and shed the outer "fuzzy" layer of skin like tissue (This fuzzy layer has also been referred to as "velvet" among hunters).

Bulls produce antlers every year and prior to the antlers becoming hard, they are removed in what is referred to as the "VELVET STAGE" or just "VELVET" among elk breeders. An average two-year old bull will grow approximately 7 pounds of velvet each year, exceptional two-year old bulls grow over 10 lbs. Generally, bulls increase velvet yields every year. Mature bulls may produce 20-40 lbs., averaging around 22-24 lbs.

Velvet is a commodity used widely in the Pacific Rim as a primary ingredient in holistic medicines. Companies create by-products with the velvet here in North America. Over the past 15 years, the selling price for velvet has ranged from $35 to $115 per pound. Recent averages are around $55-$70 per pound. There is an expanding demand for the velvet and antler products in North America and the market is also growing as more people turn to holistic medicine.

Spring is the time where the elk drops last years antlers and begins growing new antlers, or velvet. The increase in sunshine sets of the bulls system in motion to drop last years antlers (or buttons) and start growing this years velvet. The velvet will be harvested after approximately 65 days (usually no more than 80 days for mature bulls) from when the bull dropped last years rack, or buttons. If the velvet was cut the year before, the remaining antler is referred to as a "button".

To improve velvet production in your herds, here are some guidelines to help choose a herd sires:

  • 2 year olds - 10 LB minimum velvet weight
  • 3 year olds - 14 LB minimum
  • 4 year olds - 18 LB minimum
  • 5 year olds - 22 LB minimum
  • 6 year olds - 26 LB minimum

Another sometimes forgotten fact is when a bull is used to breed a large number of cows and/or is used to draw a great deal of semen for sale, the velvet production will go down the next year.

Velvet Pools are when many ranchers get together and sell their velvet in one large quantity.  This allows for easier purchasing for the buyers and easier selling for the ranchers.

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Antler Competitions are held annually. See the Calendar for times and locations of each competition. See the Competitions Section for general information about competitions and past competition results.

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NAEBA Certified Weight Index

First of all, judging is recorded on a score sheet, which is a three-part form that includes weight, style, and quality. Weight is scored by simply multiplying the weight of both antlers by 2. For example, a set that weighs 35 pounds would score 70 points for weight. (This is objective judging.)

Style and quality can earn a maximum of 30 points each. For a quick reference to evaluate a bull's value, add the maximum or "perfect" points for style and quality to the bull's weight points. For example, the bull with 70 weight points would have scored 130 CWI if he received perfect style and quality points. If the bull you are assessing earned 120 CWI, he lost 10 points in style and quality.


  • Beam Circumference: Measurement is made at the narrowest part of both beams above the trez. A centimeter tape is used, and the total is multiplied by 0.2 to arrive at a point score. For example, a measurement of 16 centimeters multiplied by 0.2 would earn the bull 3.2 points for beam circumference. (This is objective judging.)
  • Uniformity: This refers to how well the conformation of the antler fits the pattern of a right-angle triangle. This characteristic is worth 5 points. (This is subjective judging.)
  • Symmetry:    This judges whether each antler in the set is a mirror image of the other. Antlers are placed back to back and subjectively judged. If each antler mirrors the image of the other, the set earns 5 points. Any irregularities are deducted, based on the judges' training and experience.
  • Balance:    Because a heavy or wide top is preferred by velvet buyers, balance is subjectively judged based on heavy tops. The value of the upper half can be ten times more than the bottom half. A beam circumference that continuously increases from the base to the top, ending with a webbed top, will help to attain a total score of 10 points.


  • Calcification:    This is the most difficult category to judge. This subjective judging is the most important assessment the judges make. This single characteristic is awarded 25 points, and it can determine which antlers win the class. Following are the points which the judges consider in determining the extent of calcification:
    1. The brow tines must be rounded. How far have they turned upward? How do they compare to the bez and trez tines? If these are beginning to point significantly, point reduction will be assessed.
    2. How do the tops appear? Are the bulbing, webbing, and tine development too advanced, just right, or underdeveloped?
    3. The appearance of the base is evaluated. How close the antler was cut to the base can have a significant effect on appearance. The density of the base, whether it is very dense or highly porous, also affects appearance. The color of the cut end is part of appearance; the middle should be red and the outer ring should preferably be 1/8", but should not be in excess of 3/16".
    4. Beam circumference has a significant role in determining the extent of outgrowth. Typically, the larger the beam, the further the allowable outgrowth can be extended.
    5. Beam ribbing is a consideration of calcification - the more ribbing, the more calcification.
    6. A non-webbed beam must be allowed any outgrowth if the royal tine and beam extension are smaller than a closed fist or 9" to 10" in circumference. A webbed beam is allowed outgrowth providing the thickness of the web is 2 1/2" to 3". Anything less must be cut early.
  • Damage: The other component of "quality" is "damage." Damage is more detrimental at the top, where the velvet is more valuable. One type of damage is "bulbing", a negative quality caused by turning the antler upside down immediately after cutting. "Smell" is another type, caused by bacteria growth from sun exposure or from not freezing the velvet soon enough.

All of these characteristics must be considered by the NAEBA certified judges to properly evaluate velvet antlers. The total of weight, style, and quality points becomes the CWI.

Alberta Venison Council

Velvet is graded in four different specific categories and spikes are then classified in their own category. Prices vary for each category with the highest prices being paid for Grade A Velvet. The following is a grading specification adopted by the Alberta Venison Council to eliminate confusion and uncertainties surrounding most grading systems (measurements are at the narrowest point around the beam above the last antler point):

Grade "A"
Antler must be clean and of proper conformation. The following growth stages are acceptable:

  • 22 cm. measurement - maximum allowed 3.0 cm. dip in top bulb
  • 21 cm. measurement - maximum allowed 2.0 cm. dip in top bulb
  • 20 cm. measurement - maximum allowed 1.0 cm. dip in top bulb
  • Less than 20 cm. measurement - maximum allowed 0.5 cm. dip in top bulb

** Any weight of antler is acceptable

Grade "B"

Antler must be clean and of proper conformation. The following growth stages are acceptable:

  • 22 cm. measurement - maximum allowed 3.5 cm. dip in top bulb
  • 21 cm. measurement - maximum allowed 2.5 cm. dip in top bulb
  • 20 cm. measurement - maximum allowed 1.5 cm. dip in top bulb
  • Less than 20 cm. measurement - maximum allowed 1.0 cm. dip in top bulb

** Any weight of antler is acceptable

Grade "C"

  • Deformed antler like long brow tines, etc.
  • Over calcification of antler
  • Overgrown stage of development
  • Minor cuts and bruises to velvet

Grade "D"

  • Severely damaged antler or badly overgrown antler

Grade "S" (Spiker)

  • Spiker velvet
  • 12-23 cm. long
  • No damage and clean antler

As various pictures become available, I will supply them to show the differences in Grades. 

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Nature's Velvet Nutrients

Distributed by Elm Creek Elk Park.

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