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How now, New Zealand cow?

How now, New Zealand cow?

Tuesday 17 November, 2015

New Zealand's five million milking cows are doing a great job of efficiently producing milk, according to the latest 2014-15 dairy statistics<> released today.

New Zealand cows are producing more milk with more milksolids than 10 years ago.

A cow's annual average production contained 377 kilograms of milksolids (8.9%) in 2014-15, which is what New Zealand's dairy farmers are paid for, compared to 308 kilograms (8.6%) in 2004-05.

Cows from North Canterbury are the highest producers. On average each produced 4,706 litres of milk in 2014-15 with 416 kilograms of milksolids.

"North Canterbury cows recorded the highest milk volumes as well as the highest milkfat, protein and milksolids per cow. Taranaki cows recorded the highest percentage of milkfat and West Coast cows gave the highest percentage of protein and milksolids," says DairyNZ senior economist Matthew Newman.

The New Zealand dairy cow produced on average 4,235 litres of milk last season, 18 percent more than 10 years ago when she was producing 3,574 litres in 2004-05, according to the New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2014-15, published annually by industry body DairyNZ and herd improvement co-operative LIC.

In 2014-15 there were just over five million (5.02m) cows producing milk across the country, up from 4.9 million in 2013-14. However, this season farmers have been reducing cow numbers because of the low milk price, says Matthew.

In 2014-15 dairy companies processed 21.3 billion litres of milk containing 1.89 billion kilograms of milksolids. Total milksolids increased by 3.6 percent from the previous season.

"This was a record level of milk production and 56 percent higher on a milksolids basis than 10 years ago," says Matthew.

October is when the spring calving dairy cow hits her milking peak, producing a daily average of 1.98kg milksolids from 23.66 litres of milk in October 2014.

"It's also when pasture is at its most plentiful and highest quality on farm, providing a perfect synergy which helps to make New Zealand's pasture-based farming system so efficient," says LIC's genetics business manager Greg Hamill.

"That's our core competitive advantage here in New Zealand - a cost-efficient pasture-based farming system, using great cows that are fed well - and that becomes even more important in seasons with a lower milk payout.

"Today's New Zealand dairy cow, and the new benchmarks she sets each year, is a result of good breeding and high levels of genetic gain over many years. Combine that with the care and skill of the country's 11,970 dairy farmers and their ongoing commitment to improving year on year, our cows are highly efficient converters of pasture into milk solids, and that is key to maximising a farm's profitability."

DairyNZ subsidiary New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited manages the National Breeding Objective for New Zealand dairy cattle and calculates genetic gain as worth more than $250,000 to an average sized herd over 10 years. That equates to a contribution of about $300 million annually to the national economy.

Other key 2014-15 dairy statistics

* The average New Zealand cow lives in a herd of 419 cows, and has 146 hectares to graze. Most cows live in the North Island (60%), but two million cows now call the South Island home (40%).

* Fifty percent of cows live in a herd of between 100 and 349 cows, 29 percent in herds of 500 or more and 12 percent are part of herds of 750 or more. Only five percent are in herds of 1,000 cows or more. Not surprisingly, Mooloo country, the Waikato, has the biggest cow population with 23.4 percent living there. North Canterbury is the next highest with 13.4 percent of the national milking herd. The rest of our dairy cows are fairly evenly distributed across the country. Southland is the only other region reaching double-digits with 11.4 percent of our dairy cows calling the bottom of the south home.

* The cow you are most likely to see in a paddock is a Holstein-Friesian/Jersey crossbreed, as they make up 45.6 percent of the New Zealand herd. However, your opportunity to see a Jersey cow will increase if you are driving through Taranaki, Tasman and the West Coast as they are more common in those regions of New Zealand.

* Two thirds of New Zealand herds of cows are run by owner-operators, with 17 percent in herds owned by 50:50 sharemilkers and 15 percent in herds run by variable order sharemilkers. Sharemilker herds continue to decline.

For a copy of the New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2014-15, to view updated regional QuickStats summaries and to experience a new 3-dimensional model of dairy statistics, go to<>


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