Dairy cow numbers continue their downward trend in New Zealand, falling 1.26% to 4.84 million, according to the annual New Zealand Dairy Statistics report for the 2021-22 season.
The report, compiled by DairyNZ and LIC, shows that herd numbers have also dropped – down by 238 to 10,796. The average size of herds lifted by five cows to 449.
Dairy companies processed 20.78 billion litres of milk containing 1.87 billion kilograms of milk solids in the 2021-22 season. This is a 4.3% decrease in litres and a 4.1% decrease in kilograms of milk solids processed compared to the previous season, putting production back in line with 2019-2020 levels.
The average milk production per cow was 386kg MS, a 2.9% decrease from 397kg MS last season and back to similar levels as 2019-2020 season.
The average milksolids per effective hectare (1098kg) was also back to 2019-2-20 levels.
In terms of farm structures, owner-operators number 6046 and account for 56% of all herds, reflecting a move away from sharemilking, particularly variable order, to contract milking with greater certainty of milk income.
Of the balance, 29% (3089) of herds operate under a sharemilking agreement, a decrease of 56 herds from the previous season, and 58.8% of all sharemilkers are 50/50 sharemilkers. Contract milkers account for 14.5% of herds.
Industry leaders cited the impacts of covid-19, inflationary pressures and supply chain issues as the reasons for the fall in cow numbers.
The season saw an increased uptake of herd improvement services, with record herd testing levels of 3.79 million cows. Artificial insemination remained steady at 3.94 million cows.
This continues the trend of farmers focusing on improving the production efficiency of their herds, and using data and insights to support on-farm decisions.
LIC chief executive David Chin said NZ farmers responded well to the challenges of the 2021/22 season.
“Rising to challenges in a changing world is nothing new for our sector. Our farmers continue to invest in solutions that will support them to remain global dairy sector leaders,” he said.
“Record levels of herd testing uptake and strong investment in artificial breeding demonstrates a continued focus from farmers on herd improvement, to identify poor-performing cows and to breed more efficient animals.”
The average dairy co-operative payout from Fonterra and Tatua was $9.52/kg MS, a record average payout for farmers, and dairy exports reached a record $22 billion in 2021/22.