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Bullish growth in beef cattle numbers

Beef cattle numbers increased strongly in 2019, rising for the third year in a row, while the number of dairy cattle dipped slightly, Stats NZ said today.

Provisional figures from the 2019 agricultural production survey showed beef cattle numbers rose 5 percent, to 3.9 million in June 2019.

Dairy cattle numbers were almost unchanged this year, down about 31,000 to 6.4 million. Dairy cattle numbers fell in both 2017 and 2018 and were down from their highest-ever level of 6.7 million in 2014.

The milking herd (dairy cows and heifers in milk or calf) was also relatively unchanged at 4.9 million compared with 5.0 million in 2018.

“Dairy products remain the top goods export for New Zealand. The value of milk powder, butter, and cheese exports for the year ended June 2019 was $15.1 billion, up 6.7 percent from the year earlier,” agricultural production statistics manager Stuart Pitts said.

“In the year to June 2019, the rise in beef cattle numbers also coincides with a lift in exports of meat, up 9 percent to $7.7 billion. Beef exports, both fresh and frozen meat, were worth more than $3.3 billion.”

There were 69,587 cattle culled due to Mycoplasma bovis in 2019, and there have been 126,751 cattle culled in total since the eradication programme began. The Ministry for Primary Industries’ latest situation report, updated 4 December 2019, has further detail.

The total number of sheep in New Zealand fell again in 2019, down 2 percent to 26.7 million.

“Sheep numbers have fallen for most of the past decade, though the rate of decline this year was not as large as we have seen in some recent years. New Zealand now has 5.4 sheep for every person, after peaking at 22 sheep per person in 1982,” Mr Pitts said.

“While the national sheep flock has been in decline for many years, export prices for lamb reached record levels in the June 2019 quarter. This is the highest level since 1982, after steady price increases since the second half of 2016. Beef prices were also up in the quarter.”

Lamb export prices spring to a new high has more on the most recent prices for lamb and beef.

Sheep meat exports were worth about $3.8 billion in the year to June 2019.

Vineyards, and kiwifruit and apple orchards

Vineyards covered 36,000 hectares of planted area in June 2019, more than double the land in kiwifruit and triple the land in apple orchards.

“Wine is a top ten goods export from New Zealand, worth $1.8 billion in the year to June 2019,” Mr Pitts said.

“However, fruit exports are even larger, worth a total of $3.4 billion in the year to June 2019, including crops such as kiwifruit and apples.”

Kiwifruit orchards covered more than 15,000 hectares in June 2019, while apple orchards covered almost 10,000 hectares of planted area.

Kiwifruit exports were worth about $2.3 billion in the year to June 2019, up more than 20 percent from $1.8 billion in the previous June year.

Apple exports were up 13 percent to $741 million in the year to June 2019, in part reflecting volumes up 6 percent.

Note: Improvements to the quality of data for 2019 mean the land area covered by horticulture cannot be directly compared with previous years. Stats NZ advises caution when comparing 2019 horticultural land data with previous years.

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