Census mirrors ‘better efficiency, better for environment’ approach

December 14, 2017

Relatively small movements in livestock numbers in the year to June 2017 may indicate New Zealand agriculture is reaching herd equilibrium, Federated Farmers Dairy Chairperson Chris Lewis says.

Figures from Stats NZ’s 2017 agricultural production census show dairy cattle numbers dropped 2 per cent from 6.6m to 6.5m in the 12-month period.

The dairy cattle count has been largely stable since 2012.

“Farmers have a strong and increasing focus on sustainability and further improving their environmental footprint, and that is translating into maintaining or reducing dairy cattle numbers and instead looking for gains by boosting production per head,” Chris said.

“It’s being achieved. Despite falls in herd numbers, Dairy NZ data shows production per cow in 2016/17 set a new record, increasing by 9kg of milk solids per cow to 381kg.”

And it’s not just about volume but value too. The sector has successfully grown the share of milk being further processed into specialty or consumer products to 40 per cent of total output.

“Fine tuning our businesses for the best results for staff, our animals and the environment is a constant.  We’re continuing to get more out of the cows we have got, and we’re increasing the premium we earn in export dollars for New Zealand by more added-value products.”

The animal census showed cattle numbers increased for the first time in over 10 years, from 3.5 million in 2016 to 3.6 million in 2017.

Sheep numbers eased 1 percent to 27.4 million.