Waimakariri residents are outnumbered by dairy cows, but the scales may shift back because of earthquake migration and water management issues, say experts.
Farming analysis by the Waimakariri District Council shows a 220 per cent growth in dairy cow numbers since the 2000-2001 season.
This means the 49,989 residents, as recorded by the 2013 census, are outnumbered by the 58,820 dairy cows.
Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Lynda Murchison said she expected the numbers to even up in the next census.
"Since the earthquakes we have had a phenomenal growth due to people moving from the [residential] red zone to subdivisions in Kaiapoi, Woodend, Pegasus and Rangiora," she said.
The district council previously said it was expecting nine years growth in three years.
Murchison said the growth of dairy farming would be halted as the industry attempted to solve how to continue expansion by also meeting Environment Canterbury's nitrogen allocation rules.
Waimakariri has a mix of "red" and "orange" water zones. This means water quality outcomes are not being met or are "at risk".
"Pretty much it means it will be difficult to expand farming," Murchison said.
Some herd homes, or indoor farming, had been introduced to the area.
Although touted as a solution to nitrogen loss by councils, farmers were more cautious about their financial viability, Murchison said.
Other types of farming were on the decrease including sheep, beef, grain, fruit, nut, poultry and flower farming.
Data shows decreases in employees for all types of farming except dairy and flower farms.
Murchison said changes to business structures - moving from a "ma and pa" farm to amalgamated farming were responsible for some of the changes.
BY THE NUMBERS
Dairy farms 11.9 per cent more farms – 107.5 per cent more employees.
Number of dairy cows in 2000-2001 season: 18,413, 2012/2013 season: 58,820.
Sheep, beef and grain farms – 8.3 per cent fewer farms, 140.8 per cent fewer employees.
Deer farms – 65.8 per cent fewer farms, 20 per cent fewer employees.
Nurseries and flower farms – 55 per cent fewer farms, 78.1 per cent more employees.
Fruit and nut farms – 50 per cent fewer farms, 60.2 per cent fewer employees.
Poultry farms – 26.5 per cent fewer farms, 5.5 per cent fewer employees.
Other livestock farms – 0.5 per cent fewer farms, 14.3 per cent fewer employees.
- The Press