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21 February 2003 - For Immediate Release
The national dairy herd has increased to 5.3 million cattle as at 30 June
2002 according to New Zealand's latest agricultural census. The provisional
results released today by Statistics New Zealand, show that since 1999 total
dairy cattle numbers have risen 23 percent and the milking herd has risen 18
percent to 4.0 million.
MAF Senior Analyst Tony Wharton says that the 2002 Agricultural Production
Census figures confirm the extent of dairy expansion over recent years. The
Ministry is expecting continued growth in national dairy cattle numbers over the
next few years. Mr Wharton says that a lower annual rate of growth is expected,
however, as farmers respond to lower payouts compared with the higher payouts in
The expansion of the dairy herd in recent years reflects the improved
profitability of dairying over other types of pastoral farming and the
opportunities created by irrigation. For example, MAF's 2002 Farm Monitoring
publications show that the 2001/02 weighted average economic farm surplus for
the dairy farms surveyed was $1,877 per hectare compared to $229 per hectare for
the sheep-and-beef farms.
New Zealand's dairy processing industry has also expanded strongly over the
past few years on the back of the rising milk supply. Dairy products earned $7.1
billion dollars and accounted for 23 percent of New Zealand's export income for
the year to June 2002. The dairy industry, including downstream activities such
as marketing, wholesaling and transport, contributes an estimated 7 percent to
the New Zealand economy, as measured by GDP.
While the dairy industry is predominantly based in the North Island, with
approximately three-quarters of the milking herd located there, the Ministry of
Agriculture and Forestry estimates that about 40 percent of the recent increases
in cow numbers have taken place in the South Island.
"The growth in South Island dairying has occurred largely through
conversions of sheep-and-beef and cropping farms in response to low land prices,
high per-cow production, and access to irrigation," says Mr Wharton.
In contrast to the growing dairy herd, the sheep population has declined from
45.7 million in 1999 to 39.2 million head. MAF estimates that the dairy cattle
proportion of total stock units* increased markedly since 1999. Dairy cattle now
comprise 36 percent of total stock units compared to 29 percent in 1999. This
increase has been mainly at the expense of sheep, which have fallen from 43
percent of stock units in 1999 to 37 percent in 2002.
The 2002 Agricultural Production Census is the first to be held since 1994
and provides important information on 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.
For further information please visit the MAF website at www.maf.govt.nz/statistics,
or contact Tony Wharton, Senior Analyst, MAF Policy Phone 04 498-9636 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
*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.