The latest agricultural statistics have confirmed the extent to which dairy cattle numbers have increased at the expense of the sheep population in New Zealand. The total number of dairy cattle reached a record high of 5.8 million for the year ended in June 2009 - an increase of 4 percent on the previous year.
Statistics New Zealand says the jump in the dairy cattle population is the result of an increase in the number of properties converting to dairy farming. However, agricultural statistics manager, Gary Dunnet, said it also indicates that herd sizes are becoming larger throughout the country.
By contrast, the national sheep flock is down 5 percent on 2008, to 32.4 million animals or eight sheep per person.
Dunnet says this is partially because higher numbers of animals were slaughtered during the drought of 2008-2009 but also because some farmers were not replacing their flocks and instead chose to convert land to dairying.
Reprinted in part from Radio New Zealand