Dairy cow numbers in New Zealand have fallen by 6.3% in the five years between June 2017 and June 2022 according to Statistics New Zealand (NZ Stats), the equivalent of Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO). In June 2022, there were 4.72m dairy animals in New Zealand compared with 5.04m in June 2017. The fall in numbers has happened only on the North Island of New Zealand where there was a 12% fall, while the South Island increased by 2.3%.

A potential indicator of a further decline in the NZ dairy herd is the 10% fall in the number of dairy calves in 2022 compared with 2017. Numbers are down from 4.63m to 4.17m, with the North Island having a 13% decline to 2.25m calves in June 2022 compared with 2.8m in June 2017.

Total dairy cattle including bulls and heifers yet to be bred was 6.14m in June 2023, 6% down on 6.53m in June 2017. These figures are the lowest for dairy cattle since 2011 with numbers peaking in 2014 at almost 6.7m head.

The data produced by NZ Stats is captured by way of a census which had a 73% response rate in June 2022 compared with an 84% response rate for the June 2017 census. NZ stats concluded that this lower response rate did not have a significant impact on the quality of the statistics produced.

According to Dairy NZ statistics, the amount of milk processed in the 2021/22 year was the lowest since the 2016/17 year, at 20.776m litres.