At this time of year, the calves start to grow their first set of antlers. Budding antlers can be seen growing on the heads of male calves from late winter.
Antlers grow from pedicles, which are permanent bumps of bone on the skull of male deer. Pedicles develop before the deer are born but only become visible when the antlers begin to grow, which is when the deer reaches puberty at around seven months old. Antler growth is also determined by light. In the Spring when daylight increases, it causes testosterone production in deer to increase which results in antler growth. Antler size and when they begin to grow also depends on nutrition. Antlers begin to grow when the calves reach a more mature bodyweight and due to selective breeding and careful husbandry, our calves this year have matured quicker than in recent years which is why we are seeing them ‘budding up’ early.
As antlers grow they are protected by a layer of velvet, a fuzzy membrane which covers the antlers. Velvet contains nerves and blood vessels which provides the antlers with what they need to grow. When the antlers grow, they grow rapidly. The antlers can grow up to quarter of an inch per day and up to two inches per week. Antlers are the fastest growing tissue in any mammal!