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Dairy cow numbers up almost a quarter in past five years

May 28th, 2013 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

MORE COWS: Dairy cow numbers moo’ving on up

THE number of dairy cattle in New Zealand increased 22.5% in five years, according to Statistics NZ.

In its agricultural production update, Statistics NZ said cow numbers had risen from 5,261,000 (2007) to 6,446,000 (2012).

The Manawatu-Wanganui region, in particular, has experienced a 20.2% rise since 2007, from 300,000 to 357,000.

Turakina dairy farmer Lois Smith, right, says she has contributed to the rise.  In 2011 she bought 80 new cows, paying about $1000 dollars for each cow.

“I didn’t purchase these through an agent. If I had’ve I would have been looking to pay about $1750.”

She bought the cows after purchasing about 100 hectares from the neighbouring sheep farm for just over one million dollars.

“I thought the purchase was a good decision. The land’s pretty flat for a sheep farm and the money we’ll make in the long run will be worth it.”

The farm conversion was simpler than most as a cowshed and tanker track were already on the original land.  “We upgraded our cowshed to make cleaning and the actual milking easier.

The upgrading includes an electric backing gate to keep the cows moving forward at the cowshed as well as extra hoses and more water pressure to help clean.”

Ms Smith owns 350 cows and believes that efficiency is the key to owning a lot of dairy cows.  “If you don’t have a planned routine, it just becomes too difficult. There are four of us who work on the farm and we each have our roles.”

Flow-on effects from the farm expansion may include employment. The expected increase in profit means Mrs Smith is considering hiring a new worker to take over some of her work on the farm.

Another example of the expansion of dairying is Manawatu dairy farmer Nathan Brisco, left.

Mr Brisco says he’s decided to keep 120 calves on his farm next season, rather than the 80 he has been keeping for the past few years.

This means he will increase his herd size within the next few years. “I’ve started a fertilising routine which I believe will mean more grass.”

Mr Brisco has designed his cows’ grazing routine to tie in with his fertilising routine, because it can be  dangerous for cows to graze recently-fertilised paddocks.  “I spread urea at about 70kgs a hectare,” he says.

Mr Brisco pays $750 per metric tonne for urea to be bought and delivered to his farm.  Urea is added to pasture as it makes it easier for cows to digest. Faster digestion results in more grass being eaten and more milk being produced.

In the same Statistics NZ update, it was reported that sheep numbers have decreased from 2007 (38,500,000) to 2012 (31,000,000) by 19%. This means New Zealand now has fewer sheep than the United Kingdom.  Statistics NZ attributes this decrease to the increase in dairy farming.

New Zealand’s beef cattle numbers fell by 15% between 2007 (4,539,000) and 2012 (3,700,000) as a result of the 2007 drought, said the report.

In another agricultural sector, the report noted an increase in the planted area of wine grapes by 17% from 2007 (29,610 hectares) to 2012 (34,560ha). The increase is attributed to a large amount of land in Marlborough being converted to vineyards.









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