Viet Nam News
HÀ TĨNH — When spring arrives, so too, does velvet season. This is when farmers in the central province of Hà Tĩnh get busy harvesting the multi-million dollar product taken from deer antlers.
The smooth velvet texture from the horns is removed causing no harm to the animal and then used for a variety of medical products.
These include treating infertility, joint inflammation and hypertension.
Phan Văn Luật, 54, head of Sơn Lâm Cooperative which specialises in providing baby deer, deer antler velvets, said deer farming was the traditional profession of their ancestors. It has been thrived sometimes in 1990s when rich people flock to district for deer farming.
But its popularity dropped, and do too did the prices, leaving many deer farmers in massive debt.
Over the past ten years, the price has been stabilised, the trade has become popular in the district as its economic value proven.
Thousands of farmers in Hà Tĩnh’s Hương Sơn District have escaped poverty and improved their lives thanks to deer farming.
According to Luật, deer antler velvet is harvested from the antlers of growing male deer when the animal is about 50 days old. The antlers are removed from the animals before they solidify into solid bone and the velvet is harvested with no harm to them.
Deer antler contains calcium, magnesium, zinc and a variety of amino acids and anti- inflammatory prostaglandins.
It has been used by traditional medicine as treatment for infertility, joint inflammation and hypertension. It is also help boost immune system function, speed wound healing and recovery, slow ageing and restore joint health.
Engaging with the trade over two decades but in 2012 the cooperative was established, giving Luật a chance to expand his herd to up to 80 deer.
He now earns hundreds of millions of đồng each year thanks to selling baby deer and antlers.
Previously, deer farmers could only harvest deer antler velvets once a year. However, applying the right technique, they can get antlers twice a year.
A healthy deer can have antlers that weigh up to 1.7kgs. Each kilo of deer antler is valued at VNĐ10 million (US$438) at the main season – between Lunar January and February -- and the price might be up to VNĐ15 million ($657) at the other season – between Lunar July and August.
For farmers like him, the profit of selling a couple of deer antlers equals to that of caring rice crop for a whole year, Luật said.
Nguyễn Quang Thọ, chairman of Hương Sơn District’s People Committee, said raising deers have been the key to the district’s production over the past years.
The district possesses an ideal environment for raising deer with mountainous terrain and a variety of foliage for feed, he said.
Favoured for its high nutrition, deer antlers from Hương Sơn district have been not only popular in domestic market but also exported to a number of choosy markets like Canada and the United States.
At present, the district has 34,000 deer with the productivity of making more than eight tonnes deer antlers, bringing about VNĐ80 billion ($3.5 million) annually.
As word of mouth spread, farmers from other provinces including Quảng Ngãi and Nghệ An have come and learnt about Hương Sơn’s deer farming and then bought animals to raise in their own localities.
In order to create momentum for farmers in expanding their production, Thọ said, the district has incentive policies such as supporting them in upgrading breeding facilities, purchasing baby deer and planting grass.
Besides supporting policies, the district would provide VNĐ20 million ($876) to new breeders who raise more than 20 deer. Those with over 100 deer would receive VNĐ150 million ($6,500) providing that they committed to keep raising deer over three years.
Determined that deer is the main livestock, local authority is continuing to catch with market demand for deer antlers and developing the branding for the products.
In 2009, the products were granted trademark certification by the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Office of Intellectual Property of Việt Nam.
Hương Sơn deer antler velvets have recently labeled with certificate of origin and a geographical indicator is being developed with a view to protect and popularize the trademark, said Lê Đình Sơn, Party Secretary of Hà Tĩnh Province.
“The product’s labelling will help differentiate Hương Sơn deer antler velvets from the same products on the market, preserving the trademark and making the specialty known to more people,” he said. — VNS