[November 26/Stuff]

Dairy cow numbers in New Zealand have increased 2.7 per cent on the 2016-17 year to total 4.99 million. Statistics for 2017-18 show the amount of milk processed remained largely static at 20.7 billion litres. Milk solid production continued its downward trend over the past three years, easing to 1.84m kilograms from 1.85 million kg in the previous year. Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis said the data showed farmers were trying to optimise their systems as best as they can. Rival industries, particularly horticulture, have been making returns that are greater than dairy despite their high entry costs, he noted. Overall herd numbers fell but herds have continued to get larger as large farm operators are buying up their smaller neighbour to use as a runoff or to expand their business. Mr Lewis added that some land is also being converted to horticulture. Regional statistics were largely unchanged with 72 per cent of all herds in the North Island and 41 per cent of all dairy cows located in the South Island. North Canterbury remained the region with the country’s largest average herd size, averaging 803 cows. Waikato remained the country’s largest dairying region with 22.7 per cent of all cows milked. The latest statistics showed no effect from Mycoplasma bovis, but Mr Lewis expected that to show up in next year’s data.