Antler growing cycles

Antler growing cycles

Overview of phases of growth cycle

Each year, antlers drop off and fully regenerate in a growth cycles.  

Each antler growth cycle includes:

  • initiation
  • rapid growth (velvet phase)
  • mineralisation
  • velvet shedding
  • antler casting

Various factors control the different phases

Control of antler growth

Being male secondary sexual characters, both pedicle formation and the subsequent antler growth cycle is under the control of testosterone.  Testosterone levels at the various stages of the growth cycle are shown in the following table.  

Stage Testosterone level
 stimulation of pedicle formation    high
commencement of new antler growth low
 rapid antler growth    barely detectable
antler calcification    increasing
velvet shedding        high
antler casting decreasing

The factor responsible for stimulating antler growth is insulin-like growth factor 1 ('IGF1').  The timing of the peak of IGF1 production is regulated by day length but the key factor influencing the amount of IGF1 production is nutrition.  Good nutrition is therefore required to grow big antlers to the animal's full genetic potential.  For more on the role of nutrition, see the section on quality.

Show me the science
For a detailed discourse on the science of antler growth, see Antler Growth: Nutritional and Endocrine Factors Fennessy, P.F. and Suttie, J.M.

An introduction to first antlers.The pedicle to antler process, mineralisation,shedding and finally casting
The antler growth process of subsequent antlers