Milk production high despite drought

Last updated 06:13 09/12/2013
Dairy cows
GOOD WORK: The amount of milksolids per cow is at an average of 346kg.

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Dairy farmers managed to cut their milk losses to a minimum in a season shortened by severe drought.

Milk production dropped just 1.6 per cent with dairy companies processing 18.9 billion litres of milk, containing 1658 million kilograms of milksolids during the 2012-13 season ending May.

Farmers themselves might have thought the damage would have been much worse from drought over the North Island and extending to the West Coast. Yet  in statistics released today by genetics company LIC and industry organisation DairyNZ milk production might have been down from record levels in 2011/2012 but was still above 2010/2011.

Losses to dairy businesses and the economy were minimised by farmers managing the drought, rising cow numbers, good milk flows before last Christmas and a strong dairy season in Canterbury, Otago and Southland.

Nationally, herd numbers increased to 11,891, up nearly 100, and milked cows to 4.78m, up 150,000 (3 per cent). The average herd size was more than 400 cows and  11 per cent of herds had 750 or more cows, however, the most common herd size remains at 200 to 249 cows (14.5 per cent).

The North Island had 75 per cent of dairy herds in New Zealand with 30 per cent in Waikato, and 15 per  cent in Taranaki and the north had 62 per cent of all cows.

The south could claim the highest milk production average for each cow of 403kg of milksolids in the Mackenzie district and Southland had the most cows at 400,376 followed by Taranaki’s 315,300.

Furthermore, North Canterbury had the highest average milksolid production for a herd (309,244kg), highest average for each hectare (1363kg), highest average a cow (391kg) and largest average herd size of 791 cows.

North Canterbury had the highest average of 3.49 cows a hectare.

Other dairy statistics including breed breakdown, herd testing, artificial breeding, calving, milk prices, land prices and disease control were tracked from the databases of LIC, Animal Evaluation, dairy companies, Animal Health Board, the New Zealand Real Estate Institute and Statistics New Zealand.

The reproductive performance of herds is a new section with figures sourced from herds with pregnancy diagnosis information recorded in software. This was added in response to increasing farmers pregnancy testing their herd and making more use of fertility reports from  DairyNZ. The  2331 herds in the programme recorded an average in-calf rate over six weeks of 66.5 per cent during the season.

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Herd production is fundamental to farm profitability and the industry target  is to get 78 per cent of a herd in-calf within the first six weeks of mating.


- The North Island had 8912 herds averaging 332 cows and about 2.95 million cows were milked for about 967 million kilograms of milksolids. The average milksolid production was 108,511kg for herds in the north and 327kg a cow (904kg a hectare).

- The South Island had 2979 herds averaging 614 cows and about 1.82 million cows were milked for about 690 million kilograms of milksolids. The average milksolid production was 231,848kg for herds in the south and 378kg a cow (1137kg a hectare).

- Fairfax Media

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