Dairy cow numbers continue to surge - up 5 per cent in the past year to 6.5 million - while sheep appear to have stabilised at about 31 million.
According to the latest five-yearly agricultural production census, dairy cattle numbers are up more more than a million since the last survey in 2007, while sheep have fallen by 7.3 million.
In 2007, there were nine sheep for every New Zealander, but in 2012 this has dropped to seven.
Strong international demand for dairy products has fuelled the cow increase, according to Statistics NZ agriculture manager Hamish Hill.
He said the extra production from the cows equated to about 370 2-litre bottles of milk a year for everyone in the country.
The milksolids price increased from $4.05 a kilogram in January 2007 to a record high of $7.95 in April 2011. Since then, the milksolid price had dropped, although it is still relatively high at $6.
The value of dairy exports - milk powder, butter, cheese, and casein - had also shot up over the last five years, with exports increasing 72 per cent to $12.5 billion since 2007. Meanwhile, disappointing farm-gate prices for sheep meat between 2007 and 2010, and competition for farm land from the expanding dairy industry, had eroded sheep numbers, Hill said.
The loss of land to dairy was also reflected in a reduction in beef cattle numbers of 3.7 million, down 15 per cent from 2007.
Forestry harvesting continued to outnumber replanting in the past year, even though increased numbers of trees were planted.
During the year, 41,600 hectares of exotic forest were replanted, which was 19 per cent more than the 35,100ha replanted in 2011.
At the same time, 49,600ha were harvested, up 5 per cent on 2011, under strong international demand for New Zealand forestry products.
New planting was 11,600ha, 4400ha more than in 2011, largely due to schemes such as the Afforestation Grant Scheme and the East Coast Forestry Project.
The wine sector had also experienced phenomenal growth over the last 30 years despite a more recent slowdown, Hill said.
- The Dominion Post
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