Beef cattle numbers increased strongly in 2019, rising for the third year in a row, while the number of dairy cattle dipped slightly, Stats NZ says.
Provisional figures from the 2019 agricultural production survey showed beef cattle numbers rose five percent, to 3.9 million in June 2019.
Dairy cattle numbers were almost unchanged this year, down about 31,000 to 6.4 million. Dairy cattle numbers fell in both 2017 and 2018 and were down from their highest-ever level of 6.7 million in 2014.
The milking herd (dairy cows and heifers in milk or calf) was also relatively unchanged at 4.9 million compared with 5.0 million in 2018.
“Dairy products remain the top goods export for New Zealand. The value of milk powder, butter, and cheese exports for the year ended June 2019 was $15.1 billion, up 6.7 percent from the year earlier,” agricultural production statistics manager Stuart Pitts says.
“In the year to June 2019, the rise in beef cattle numbers also coincides with a lift in exports of meat, up nine percent to $7.7 billion. Beef exports, both fresh and frozen meat, were worth more than $3.3 billion.”
There were 69,587 cattle culled due to Mycoplasma bovis in 2019, and there have been 126,751 cattle culled in total since the eradication programme began. The Ministry for Primary Industries’ latest situation report, updated 4 December 2019, has further detail.
The total number of sheep in New Zealand fell again in 2019, down two percent to 26.7 million.
“Sheep numbers have fallen for most of the past decade, though the rate of decline this year was not as large as we have seen in some recent years. New Zealand now has 5.4 sheep for every person, after peaking at 22 sheep per person in 1982,” Pitts says.
“While the national sheep flock has been in decline for many years, export prices for lamb reached record levels in the June 2019 quarter. This is the highest level since 1982, after steady price increases since the second half of 2016. Beef prices were also up in the quarter.”
Export prices for lamb reached their highest point in the June 2019 quarter – the highest since the series began in 1982 and follows steady increases from the second half of 2016, according to Stats NZ. Both lamb and beef prices rose that quarter, up 4.7 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively, on the back of strong overseas demand.
Sheepmeat exports were worth about $3.8 billion in the year to June 2019.