fbpx
Print this page
Saturday, 29 December 2018 08:55

Fewer herds, but more milk

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
The New Zealand dairy industry has shifted to fewer herds with a greater focus on their performance. The New Zealand dairy industry has shifted to fewer herds with a greater focus on their performance.

New Zealand's dairy sector is evolving, with the latest data showing a shift to fewer herds and a greater focus on their performance.

According to the New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2017-18 report, published by DairyNZ and LIC, there were 11,590 dairy herds last season – 158 fewer than the previous season. 

This was the third year of decreasing herd numbers, but the average herd size increased by 17 cows to 431. The total 2017-18 cow population was 4.99 million, an increase of 2.7% from the previous season but still below the peak population of at least 5.01m cows in the 2014-15 season.

DairyNZ senior economist Matthew Newman says despite last year’s challenging spring weather, milk production was only slightly decreased.

Dairy companies processed 20.7 billion litres of milk last season, containing 1.84b kgMS, down 0.6% on the previous season.

“Farmers benefitted from favourable late summer and autumn conditions so a number of the regions were able to milk their herds longer into the new year, which supported reasonable production for the year,” says Newman.

Sharemilking arrangements were down by 44 herds from the previous season. Herds under sharemilking arrangements have declined from 36% in 2008-09 to 27% of herds in 2017-18.

“This movement from sharemilking to contract milking is driven by people wanting the greater certainty of milk income that contract milking provides,” says Newman.

The report also showed a surge in the uptake of herd improvement services, as farmers seek higher performing and more efficient dairy cows through the use of herd testing and artificial breeding (AB).

A total of 71.1% NZ herds were herd tested (8242 herds), up from 64.3% (7557) in 2016-17. Total cows herd tested was 3.62m, up from 3.21m last season and close to the record level of 3.65m in 2014-15. 

LIC general manager NZ markets Malcolm Ellis says this reflects a shift to precision agriculture, as farmers work to optimise their systems.

“The days of significant cow growth may be over and we know that farmers are more focused on productivity and efficiency. Without doubt farmers are wanting to know more about the production status of the cows they milk, gain more confidence about their parentage and certainly invest appropriately to breed superior livestock into the future.”

While the number of cows mated to AB had a nominal increase of 1.01%, the number of yearlings mated to AB jumped 17% on the previous season which Ellis says reflects farmers identifying every opportunity to maximise the rate of genetic gain.

Genetic gain is worth upwards of $200m to the NZ dairy sector each year. 

More like this

Living the dream on farm

DairyNZ board candidate Cole Groves says he is “living the dream” as a dairy farmer, milking just over 400 cows near Hinds in Mid-Canterbury.

Strategy to reduce heifer mastitis

First calvers are more prone to mastitis than older cows. According to DairyNZ, farmers must choose a strategy that best suits their herd, farm team, and budget.

Drenching cows during milking now common

The drenching process can be fitted into the normal milking routine with ease if done properly, and without any substantial increase in milking times, according to DairyNZ.

DairyNZ's election wishlist

DairyNZ has released its ten policy priorities for the 2020 election and its The View from the Cow Shed report which provides policymakers with insight from the farm.

Featured

Awards help winners’ fine tune

Newly-crowned Share Farmers of the Year Sarah and Aidan Stevenson are looking forward to their leadership roles over the next 12 months.

 

Living the dream on farm

DairyNZ board candidate Cole Groves says he is “living the dream” as a dairy farmer, milking just over 400 cows near Hinds in Mid-Canterbury.

National

Machinery & Products

New tractor fills the gap

Deutz Fahr has introduced the new 8280 TTV, which is aimed at filling the gap between its current 7 and…