9 Feb 2010

Dairy herds rise as sheep numbers fall

12:41 pm on 9 February 2010

Latest agricultural statistics have confirmed the extent to which dairy cattle numbers have increased at the expense of the sheep population.

the total number of dairy cattle reached a record high of 5.8 million for the year ended in June 2009 - an increase of 4% on the previous year.

Statistics New Zealand says the jump in the dairy cattle population is the result of an increase in the number of properties converting to dairy farming.

However, agricultural statistics manager Gary Dunnet says it also indicates that herd sizes are becoming larger throughout the country.

By contrast, the national sheep flock is down 5% on 2008, to 32.4 million animals or eight sheep per person.

Mr Dunnet says this is partially because higher numbers of animals were slaughtered the drought during 2008/09, but also because some farmers were not replacing their flocks, and instead chose to convert land to dairying.

Deer numbers fell between June 2008 - June 2009 by 6% to 1.2 million, while the beef cattle population remained stable at about four million.

Crops also up

Despite pleas from the Winegrowers Institute to limit production, new plantings of wine grapes continued to increase by almost 3500 thousand hectares to alnmost 33000 hectares last year.

Another highlight was a substantial increase in both the area and tonnage of wheat harvested in 2009.

Plantings were up 27% to almost 54,000 hectares, while tonnage increased by 65,000.

Barley and maize plantings also increase by 15% and 26% respectively