Milk swirl.
November 27, 2018

New Zealand: Fewer Herds, More Cows Per Farm

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

New Zealand’s dairy industry is following the same consolidation trends as its counterparts around the world: Fewer dairy herds, but more cows per farm.


Dairy farms on New Zealand’s North and South Islands declined by 158 to 11,590, a 1.3% decline, this past year. This is the third consecutive year herd numbers have declined. Cow numbers, however, were up 132,000 head, a 2.7% increase, to 4.99 million, reports eDairyNews. And cows per farm now average 431, up 17 cows from last year.


Milk production for the 2017-2018 grazing season was static at 20.7 billion liters (45.5 billion lb.) And milk solids were slightly off, down 0.1 million kilograms.  


Milk production for the 2018/2019 grazing season is off to a roaring start, up 6% from last year. That increase is likely having a dampening effect on world markets because New Zealand exports about 90% of its production. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a modest El Nino this year, which typically means dry conditions for New Zealand and Australia, says Mark Stephenson, a dairy economist with the University of Wisconsin.


Australia is already suffering under severe drought. If that spreads to New Zealand, pastures could dry up and curtail milk production later this year, Stephenson says.