New Zealand's dairy cow population is growing faster than the human population for the first time, the latest DairyNZ and Livestock Improvement Corporation figures show.
The number of dairy cows increased 3 per cent to just over 4.5 million in 2010-11, while the number of people grew 0.9 per cent to just over 4.4 million.
It is the second consecutive year the dairy cow population has topped the human population, LIC said.
The Waikato continues to reign supreme as the largest dairying region. In 2010-11, 25 per cent of all cows were in the Waikato region – followed by North Canterbury, Taranaki and Southland with 11 per cent each.
The latest year was a record year for average production per cow – up 5 per cent, the figures show. The new high is an average of 334kg milksolids (comprising 190kg milkfat and 144kg protein) per cow. Waikato had the highest average milksolids production per hectare in the North Island, at 948kg milksolids.
In 2010-11 dairy companies processed 17.3 billion litres of milk, with total milksolids processed increasing from 1.44 billion kg in 2009-10 to 1.51 billion kg. The rise is due to the lift in production per cow and more cows being milked, following an exceptionally good 2011 autumn for dairying, DairyNZ and LIC said.
For the third consecutive year, the number of herds increased – 44 to 11,735 in 2010-2011. The average herd increased 10 cows to 386, echoing the upwards trend over the past 30 seasons, during which the average herd size has more than tripled.
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