Dairy farming statistics from the 2017/18 season

The 2017-2018 season was a big one for dairy in New Zealand. On most accounts, the numbers were up from last season and they look set to continue trending in that direction. However, 2017’s M. Bovis outbreak continues to dominate the discussion around dairy; and while that has faded somewhat from the spotlight the topic of N leaching due to cows and irrigation is becoming more prevalent in its place.

So, as we head into the 2018/19 season, it’s worth taking a look back at how our industry fared as a whole to we see where improvement is needed. There are a few numbers we should all be aware of, and a couple other interesting figures worth noting.


That’s the number of litres of processed milk that were totalled across New Zealand last season. It’s up just over 1% from last season, but still down 2.55% on the record season of 2014/15 where 21.3 billion litres were processed. Compared to growing population numbers, especially in the South Island, we can expect to see these numbers continue to rise. 


New Zealand’s dairy population now totals nearly 5 million cows at 4,992,914 to be exact. Numbers are up on last season and the greatest growth in cattle population has been in the South Island. Between 1994 and 2015 the growth has been upwards of 200% (Statistics New Zealand). And compared with a regional growth of only around 30% in our strongest region, Waikato, the potential for the South Island is evident. 


The North Island boasts the majority of dairy herds in the country with 72.3% of all herds being found there. However, compared to the South Island, they’re not as large on average with only around 1 million cows less than the North Island in total. 


Last season Ashburton was the most productive dairy district in New Zealand, followed closely by MacKenzie. Both in Canterbury, these areas both boast larger herds numbers and a higher stocking rate (on average) than North Island herds. It is worth noting that this trend of larger herds is being seen across the South Island.


It’s there or thereabouts that the big four banks are predicting the price of milk solids per kilogram for the 2018/19 season. Reported by David Hargreaves,  Among the big four, Westpac and ANZ were at $6.10, while ASB and BNZ were on $6, with BNZ having dropped its forecast from $6.30. Rabobank forecast a similar figure at $6.40 for the 2018/19 season, predicting a shaky start but a strong finish for local farmers resulting in a third season of milk price starting with a 6.

Stats have been taken from the annual New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2017-18 repaort unless otherwise stated.