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New Zealand's dairy herd now matches human population, wine output soars, government figures show

Tuesday 9th February 2010

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Dairy cows are up, sheep down and beef cattle numbers are about the same over the past year, according to Statistics New Zealand’s latest assessment of the nation’s primary sector.

There’s now one milking dairy cow for every person in New Zealand the 2009 Agricultural Production Survey notes in its comments. Someone’s going to have to drink a lot more wine as well – New Zealand’s vineyard area has increased 11% since 2007 to stand at just under 33,000 hectares.

The survey, which collects information on livestock and arable farming, horticulture, forestry and selected farming practices including fertilizer and cultivation indicates that the milking dairy herd expanded by a quarter of a million cows in a year to stand at 4.6 million at June 30 2009. The expansion was due to both dairy conversions and an increased number of milking cows in existing herds, including older cows being retained for milk production.

Total sheep numbers to the end of June were estimated at 32.4 million, down 1.7 million from a year earlier. Between 2007 and 2008, sheep numbers dropped by 4.4 million.

The national sheep flock has dwindled from 60.6 million in 1989 and from 70 million in 1982. The survey notes that the decline in the national breeding flock has been partly offset in an increase in the lambing percentage. In 2009 a lambing percentage of 119% was achieved, compared with 102% in 1989.

Beef cattle numbers were 4.1 million to June 2009, similar to 2008, but 430,000 fewer than in 1989.

Deer numbers have reduced, a total of 1.2 million in June 2009 representing a 6% decline from the year before. During that period there were 436,000 fawns born and alive at six months, 12% lower than the previous year. That drop was in line with the fall in the number of hinds mated between 2007 and 2008 when their number plummeted by 13%.

The area planted in wine grapes has seen a six-fold expansion since 1989 when 4,830 hectares was in production. The expansion reflects export market success, with 112 million litres shipped last year, from just 3 million litres 20 years ago.

Forestry’s numbers are another big mover in the survey. New areas planted to March 31 2009 were 2,300 hectares, similar to 2,700 the previous year. In the December 2001 year there was 33,700 hectares of new plantings. In 2009 there were 31.100 hectares of exotic forest replanted, while eight years before 42.500 hectares was replanted.

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