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21 February 2003 - For Immediate Release
New Zealand's total sheep and beef populations have dropped in the past three
years. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says that this reflects recent
land use changes, including conversions to dairy and forestry.
The provisional results from the 2002 Agricultural Production Census shows
that the total sheep count has declined from 45.7 million head in 1999 to 39.2
million in 2002. The national beef herd stood at 4.5 million cattle as at 30
June 2002 (down 3 percent on 1999 when the herd totalled 4.6 million beef
The estimates, released today by Statistics New Zealand, also reveal declines
in the national ewe flock and the beef breeding herd. Compared to 1999, when the
last livestock survey was held, the sheep breeding population has fallen by 10
percent to 28.9 million head and the beef breeding herd totalled 1.3 million
cattle (down by 13 percent on 1999.)
MAF Senior Policy Analyst Rod Forbes says that the provisional figures from
the 2002 agricultural census are lower than previous Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry's estimates, and confirm a continued decline in sheep numbers.
While livestock numbers have declined, there have been significant
productivity gains, particularly for sheep. The numbers of lambs tailed as a
percentage of mated ewes and ewe hoggets, have increased over time, as have the
carcass weights of lambs slaughtered.
Mr Forbes says that the influence of the expansion of the national dairy herd
goes beyond the increase in the number of dairy farms or milking 'platforms'.
"There is also an increase in the number of young dairy stock being
grazed all year round and dairy herds being grazed on sheep and beef areas
during winter. Dairy farmers are also sourcing hay and silage from other
farms," Mr Forbes says.
The conversion to forestry has led to a reduction in livestock. MAF estimates
that new forest planting in the last three years has resulted in 400,000 fewer
stock units* being grazed. A total of 3.7 million stock unit equivalents have
been converted to forestry since 1970.
The total number of stock units on New Zealand farms at June 2002 is
estimated at 94 million. Of this, sheep made up 37 percent and beef cattle 24
percent. Since 1994, the proportion of sheep and beef cattle stock units has
The sheep and beef cattle industries are significant contributors to economic
activity and exports. Meat and wool generated $4.7 billion gross revenue on
farms for the year ended March 2002. This is 27 percent of total gross revenue
($17.8 billion) for the agricultural sector.
Pastoral-based exports totalled $14.1 billion for the year ended June 2002,
or 45 percent of total merchandise exports. Sheep meat and wool exports
contributed $3.2 billion and beef and veal exports $1.8 billion. New Zealand
also derives revenues from co-products such as hides, skins and offal.
The 2002 Agricultural Production Census is the first to be held since 1994
and provides important information about what has been happening in the
agricultural, forestry and horticultural sectors in recent years. Final
statistics from the census will be released in May of this year, including
detailed data at regional and district level, and additional information on farm
types, forestry and land use.
*A stock unit is a measure used to compare the nutrition requirements of
different pastoral livestock. For example the standard stock unit is based on
one breeding ewe of 55 kg liveweight producing one lamb. A dairy cow in calf
equals seven stock units.
For further information please visit the MAF website at
www.maf.govt.nz/statistics or contact Rod Forbes, Senior Policy Analyst, MAF
Policy Phone 04 474 4222 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org