Dairy farming is an important part of New Zealand's agricultural industry and economy. Dairy cows produce milk that is used to make a variety of dairy products, including butter, cheese, and yoghurt, and powder, which from a New Zealand dairy farmer's perspective, is exported.New Zealand is home to a large number of dairy farms with large herd sizes. The small population of people is supported by a globally competitive dairy industry that is ultimately a major exporter of dairy products. To reiterate, the dairy industry in New Zealand is a significant contributor, driving growth and prosperity across the economy.Whether you’re already a newbie to the industry or thinking of joining, here are some answers to the most pertinent questions you could ask a New Zealand dairy farmer, with straightforward answers.
What are the benefits of dairy farming in New Zealand?
There are a number of benefits to dairy farming in New Zealand.
These include the fact that New Zealand is an efficient producer of dairy products and that the country has a relatively low emission intensity when it comes to dairy farming. Additionally, the fact that New Zealand typically has a grass-based farming system means that there is generally thought to be a lower cost of production basis for competing strongly in the international market. Of course, where there are benefits, there are disadvantages, so let's take a look.
What are the disadvantages of dairy farming in New Zealand?
The main disadvantages of dairy farming in New Zealand are its environmental impact and the scarcity of land. Dairy farming has been a major contributor to water pollution, soil erosion, and greenhouse gas emissions in years gone by, and recent climate and environmental awareness are changing farming practises. In addition, dairy farming requires large amounts of land and water, which can lead to deforestation and habitat loss, which has fed into the scarcity of land for competing commodities. This is more so when dairy farmers look to intensify their operations with intensive grazing practises that are often limited by the expensive demand for competing resources such as bought-in supplementary feed and fertiliser. However, these disadvantages are mitigated by producing a high-quality product in a lean operating environment with a strong comparative advantage in the world market that pays a premium for safe food.
Who is the industry body, DairyNZ?
DairyNZ is the industry body for dairy farmers in New Zealand. It is a not-for-profit organisation that represents the interests of dairy farmers and promotes the sustainability and profitability of the dairy industry. DairyNZ works with farmers, science and industry partners to develop and deliver practical solutions that improve farm productivity, environmental performance and the wellbeing of dairy farmers and their communities.
DairyNZ is a strong organisation for dairy farmers as it provides a range of services to support them. These services include providing information and advice on farming practices, carrying out research to improve dairy farming efficiency and productivity; and acting as an advocate for the industry. DairyNZ also provides services to help farmers manage environmental issues and promote sustainable dairying. The organisation does this while balancing everything from market research to improving animal welfare practises. Understanding the geographical diversity of the New Zealand dairy industry will provide a sound knowledge of what DairyNZ does. So, let's dive into the various dairy farming regions of NZ.
What are the New Zealand dairy farming regions?
The main New Zealand dairy farming regions are the Waikato, Taranaki, Canterbury, and Southland. These four regions cover a large portion of both the North and South islands. In saying so, dairy farming is found in many other regions of New Zealand, and we'll list some of them below.
Dairy farming in Waikato
Dairy farming is a major industry in the Waikato accounting for 33% of the national herd. Waikato has a long history of dairy farming, and it is now the largest region for dairy production in New Zealand. The mild climate and ample rainfall make it ideal for pasture-based dairy farming. Dairy cattle are the main source of income for many farmers in the Waikato. The Waikato is home to some of the largest dairy farms in New Zealand. These farms produce a large amount of milk, which is processed into various dairy products, making this local dairy industry an important part of the Waikato and greater NZ economy.
Dairy farming in Taranaki
As touched on, dairy farming is a significant agricultural industry in New Zealand, particularly in the Taranaki region. The region has a temperate climate and rich soils, which make it ideal for dairying. Dairy farms vary in size, from small family-run farms to large commercial operations. Dairy farming has a significant impact on the economy of Taranaki. It is one of the region's major industries, generating employment and income for many families. Many people choose to live in Taranaki for its lifestyle and the natural beauty of the region. Village life, local events, and excellent recreational opportunities add to the enjoyment of living and working in Taranaki.
Dairy farming in Canterbury
Canterbury is one of the most suitable regions in New Zealand for dairy farming. The weather is temperate with rich rainfall, and the area is well-known for its high-quality grass. This is an important aspect, as New Zealand is based on grass-based production with cows in pasture from early spring to late autumn. The rest of the year, the cows might be housed in sheds with access to shelterbelts for shade and pasture, or wintered off and put on forage other than pasture.
Dairy farming in Southland
In Southland, New Zealand, dairy farming is a major agricultural industry. The region has a temperate and cooler climate and ample rainfall, making it ideal for pasture-based dairy farming. Southland is home to some of the country's largest dairy farms, and the industry employs thousands of people in the region. Dairy farming in Southland is based on intensive grass-based production of milk from cows. Farmers use a variety of strategies to optimise milk production. The high productivity of Southland dairy farms has led to the region's becoming a major exporter of dairy products. The dairy industry is an important part of the Southland economy, and it plays a significant role in the social and cultural life of the region. The primary products in Southland are milk and dairy products, meat, and poultry. Forestry-related products such as wood and furniture are also produced in the region. Textile production is less well known, but the dairy region of Southland also has textile companies specialising in blankets, outdoor clothing, and industrial wear.
Southland is a stunning part of New Zealand, but there are more areas where dairy farms are found.
Where else are dairy farms located in New Zealand?
To give you an idea, here is a longer list of where dairy farms are located in New Zealand.
- Bay of Plenty
- Hawke's Bay
- Lower North Island
- North Otago
- South Otago
- Top of South Island
- West Coast
Most dairy farms in New Zealand are family-owned and operated. Dairy farming is a way of life for many families. It can be a demanding and challenging job, but it is also very rewarding.
Dairy farms are found all over New Zealand, as the country is home to a large number of dairy cows. The majority of dairy farms are located in the North Island, with the majority of those being in the Waikato region. However, there are also a significant number of dairy farms in the South Island, particularly in the region of Southland.
Dairy farming in New Zealand is not without its challenges. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with the changing climate. New Zealand’s climate is changing and becoming more variable, with more extreme weather events. This means that farmers have to adapt to the changing climate and take measures to protect their crops against extreme weather events while managing the environment around them.
Dairy farming has both benefits and disadvantages across all regions of New Zealand.
Where you choose to farm is a lot more complex than choosing a region, and with that, we will end the article for another day.
Until we meet again, Happy Farming!
- The Dedicated Team of Pasture.io, 22 June 2022