Last years drought had only a minor impact on dairy industry, North Canterbury performance shines

Content supplied by DairyNZ

Despite a severe drought that resulted in a shorter milking season for many of New Zealand’s dairy farmers, milk production only decreased by 1.6% during the 2012/2013 season.

According to statistics released by LIC and DairyNZ today, New Zealand’s dairy cows produced 1,658 million kilograms of milksolids in 2012/2013, which is down from the record level of production achieved in 2011/2012 but still above 2010/2011 figures.

Both organisations agree the achievement is a testament to the resilience of farmers and their ability to manage through a drought with minimal impact to their business and the New Zealand economy.

The strong performance was also helped by an increase in cow numbers, good milk production before Christmas and a strong dairy season in Canterbury, Otago and Southland.

The annual New Zealand Dairy Statistics document provides a comprehensive review of the dairy industry with statistics from the LIC database, Animal Evaluation database, dairy companies, Animal Health Board Annual Report, NZ Real Estate Institute and Statistics New Zealand.

The statistics represent all New Zealand dairy farmers, and include cow production and population, operating structures, breed breakdown, herd testing, artificial breeding, calving, milk prices, land prices and disease control.

Herd reproductive performance has also been added this year, with figures sourced from herds with adequate pregnancy diagnosis information recorded in LIC’s MINDA herd management software, which formulates a Fertility Focus Report and 6 week in-calf rate for the herd. 

The new section has been added in response to an increasing number of farmers pregnancy testing their herd and utilising DairyNZ’s Fertility Focus Reports which allows them to measure and manage their herd’s performance.

Since DairyNZ’s InCalf programme was launched in 2008, use of these reports increased to 2,331 herds in 2012/2013, and their average six week in-calf rate for the season was 66.5%.

Herd production is fundamental to farm profitability and the industry target, from the DairyNZ InCalf programme, is to get 78% of the herd in-calf within in the first six weeks of mating.

The full report and more regional statistics can be found on the LIC and DairyNZ websites here: and


  North Island South Island New Zealand
Herds 8,912 2,979 11,891
Average herd size 332 614 402
Total cows milked 2,955,002 1,829,248 4,784,250
Production - Total milk solids (tonnes) 967,047 690,676 1,657,722
Production - Avg milk solids of herds 108,511 kg 231,848 kg 139,4109 kg
Production - Avg milk solids per cow 327 kg 378 kg 346 kg
Production - Avg milk solids effective hectare 904 kg 1,137 kg 988 kg


• Dairy companies processed 18.9 billion litres of milk, containing 1,658 million kg milksolids
• Milksolids processed decreased by 1.6%, from the record 1,685 million kg in previous season
• Production per cow decreased by 4.9% to average 346kg milksolids (196kg milkfat, 150kg protein)

Cows and herds

• Number of herds increased from 11,798 to 11,891
• Number of cows being milked increased by 150,000 (3%) to 4.78 million cows
• Average herd size now exceed 400 cows
• 11% of herds had 750 or more cows
• The most common herd size remains at 200 - 249 cows (14.5%)
• A little over 50% (6,373) of herds had between 100 and 349 cows 

Operating structures

• 65% of herds were operated as owner-operators
• 53% of sharemilkers were 50/50 sharemilkers
• The South Island had more variable order sharemilkers than 50/50, while the opposite was the case in the North Island.

Breed breakdown

• Holstein-Friesian was the prevalent breed in Northland, Bay of Plenty/East Coast and Manawatu/Wairarapa.
• Holstein-Friesian/Jersey crossbreed was the prevalent breed in Waikato, Taranaki and all South Island regions. 
• Manawatu/Wairarapa had the highest percentage of Holstein-Friesian cows.
• Marlborough/Canterbury had the highest proportion of Holstein-Friesian/Jersey crossbreeds.
• Tasman/West Coast had the highest proportion of Jerseys, followed by Taranaki.

Herd testing and Artificial Breeding (AB)

• A record 3.42 million cows were herd tested in 2012/13
• After the East Coast, where all nine herds were herd tested, Wairarapa had the highest percentage of herds using herd testing (79%)
• A record 3.58 million cows were put to AB, or 75%
• Inseminations for Holstein-Friesian increased to 55%
• Inseminations for the Jersey breed declined to 16%. 
• Inseminations for crossbreed increased to 26%

Herd Reproduction 

• Use of detailed Fertility Focus Reports, from the DairyNZ InCalf Programme, has increased to 2,331 herds (so formulated a 6 week in-calf rate is formulated).
• Average actual 6 week in-calf rate increased to 66.5% (of 2,331 herds)
• 50% had an actual 6-week in-calf rate of 67% or higher 
• 10% had an actual in-calf rate of 76% or higher
• 10% had an actual in-calf rate of 56% or lower



• 75% of dairy herds located in North Island
• 30% of dairy herds were situated in the Waikato region, followed by Taranaki with 15%.
• 62% of cows were in the North Island, 24% in the Waikato
• Smallest average herd sizes were in Auckland (260)
• South Taranaki continues to be the district with the most herds (1,038) followed by Matamata-Piako (1,000)
• Central Hawkes Bay district had the highest production per herd, average 235,640kg milksolids. 
• North Canterbury had the highest average cows per ha (3.49)
• MacKenzie district recorded the highest production per cow, average 403kg milksolids. 
• Southland district had the most cows (400,376), followed by South Taranaki (315,300).

In the North Island:

• Hawkes Bay had the largest average herd size (673 cows) and the highest average herd production (209,803kg milk solids).
• Manawatu had the highest average milksolids production per ha (996kg) and the highest average milksolids per cow (360kg).

In the South Island:

• North Canterbury recorded the highest average herd production (309,244kg milksolids), 
highest average per ha (1,363kg milk solids) and highest average per cow (391kg milk solids).
• North Canterbury also had the largest average herd size (791 cows). 

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Does a 1.6% decrease in milk solids reconcile with the claim that TAF structure avoided an otherwise 130 million dollar redemption obligation as a result of the worst drought in seventy years?

The "redemption obligation" was a contractual invention by Fonterra and government anyway, they could just have voted to change that rule out - most real farmers don't want it as it makes "money wash in and out" of the farmers books,

When it's a tough year, we were forced to cash in by Fonterra, then forced to repurchase the following year.  And often IRD tried to claim the cashing out was "income" instead of just being effectively capital notes being transferred in and out of cash-vs-supplyrights each year.  And if there was a boom year, instead of getting into principal repayment or deferred maintenance we had to kill the cash by putting it in to paper for Fonterra.

They always had the "dry share" option, just Fonterra and Gubberment wouldn't let it happen.

only one is real number.
the increase in gearing the liability thought to have been avoided appears to then have taken on in order to fund more than otherwise advance payments (see pages later on)..