13 May 2014

Dairy herd up, fall in other livestock

3:14 pm on 13 May 2014

The latest livestock figures show the number of dairy cattle in New Zealand continued to rise last year.

The South Island's dairy herd increased by 3 percent - or by 84,000 more cows - and the national herd grew by 1 percent.

Dairy cattle numbers continue to grow.

Dairy cattle numbers continue to grow. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The dairy industry bucked the trend of other livestock industries- with the Agricultural Production Survey showing sheep, beef cattle, deer and pig numbers all falling in the year to June 2013.

Statistics New Zealand's manager of business indicators Neil Kelly says the growing dairy herd last year reflects a long-term trend.

"The number of dairy cattle has been increasing for some time, for about 10 years now - we've actually seen decreases in the number of dairy cattle in the North Island by about 1 percent but that's been more than offset by growth in the South Island which was about 3 percent," he says.

"Back in 2003, we had just over 5 million dairy cattle in New Zealand, we now have just under 6.5 million dairy cattle in New Zealand."

The figures show that while the dairy herd rose by one percent nationally the beef cattle herd fell by the same amount to 3.7 million, while the nation's sheep flock fell 2 percent to just over 30 million.

A decade ago there nearly 40 million sheep in New Zealand.

However, Mr Kelly says climate has to be considered when looking at the 2013 livestock figures.

"One thing that I would say was that, of course, there was a drought in the North Island in 2012/2013. And that contributed to livestock decreases across a number of different categories and put downward pressure on the dairy numbers."

Mr Kelly says some North Island areas received less that half their expected rainfall in the 2012/13 season.