The Facts about Dairy Farming

  • There are about 11,400 dairy farms in New Zealand, including non-commercial smallholding farms.
  • There are about 11,800 dairy herds, totalling over 4.6 million cows.
  • Since the year 2000, the amount of land used for dairy farming has increased from 1,330,000 hectares to almost 1,640,000 hectares.
  • In 1990 the average herd size was 160 cows, today it is 393 cows.
  • The majority of herds are in the North Island (62.9%), with an average North Island herd size of 327 cows.
  • Generally the largest farms and herds are in the South Island, where there has been most growth in dairy farming in the past 10 years. South Canterbury has the largest average herd size of 779 cows.
  • Total milk production has increased from nearly 13 billion litres in 2000 to over 19.1 billion litres in 2012.
  • Ninety-five per cent of all milk produced is processed for export.
  • New Zealand's largest dairy company, Fonterra, earns about 20% of the country's total export income.
  • Our dairy season runs from 1 June to 31 May.