Velveting is in full swing at Southland’s Altrive Red Deer Ltd, where Andrew Elder is the main pair of hands in the deer shed. Removing deer velvet is a skilled task that he anticipates will keep him busy through to Christmas.
If the cut goes well, it’s likely that Altrive velvet will again feature at this December’s National Velvet and Hard Antler Competition in Invercargill.
Altrive Red Deer has been a consistent top three high achiever in this competition over the past decade in the 3yr old and 4yr old velvet classes. Altrive is recognised as one of New Zealand’s elite red deer velvet farms, producing valuable velvet and trophy deer.
The quality of its sale stags and hinds has long been appreciated by discerning buyers in the domestic market. The 150-hectare property, (138-hectares irrigated) has this year farmed 320 hinds, 149 weaner hinds, 128 weaner stags, 130 rising 2yrd old stags, 65 3yr olds and 130 mixed age velveting stags.
Andrew’s father Geoff founded the award winning velvet and trophy stag farm in the mid-1980s, after having earlier taken over the family sheep farm with a view to diversify and develop its stock. He started with a small herd of hinds and began performance recording right from the outset.
Over the years, the focus shifted from selecting on growth rates to velvet as well and, since 2008, Altrive’s 2yr old keepers have been achieving average velvet weights of more than 4kg. Breeding bigger and better heads has long been the goal, achieved through acquiring the best stags available and using their own top home-bred velvet stag sires.
Returning home in 2014 to help out his father felt like the right time for Andrew, even though it involved a steep learning curve.(After leaving school, Andrew first milked cows for a few years before spending the best part of a decade as a shepherd at Whare Creek, a large sheep and beef farm in the TeAnau basin).
“I’ve had to learn the ropes, but it’s worked out very well with me doing the velvetting and Dad continuing to managebreeding objectives and performance recording,” says Andrew.Altrive Red Deer’s annual sales consistently attract strong interest and top prices. “In total, 88 registered buyers turned up at our January 2019 sale, so it was a massive crowd.”
Sold at that sale were 23 sire stags averaging $21,456 and the top price for a stag was $75,000; 57 yearling hinds were also sold, averaging $2800 along with 49 2yr old velveting stags averaging $2100 (top price: $2300). Altrive held its first farm-based online auction of 40 mixed age hinds at the end of July. Previously, the sale was run through a catalogue.
“It was very successful: the hinds were in fawn and we sold the lot at an average price of $2780; the top one fetched $6000. We had buyers from all around New Zealand.”
Once velveting finishes this year, Andrew and his father will be busy once again sorting stock for the next big sale in January 2020.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Fogarty Deer and Livestock
- Otago Deer Transport Ltd