New Zealand records lowest sheep:people ratio since 1850s

Sheep Central, May 24, 2023

New Zealand sheep numbers continue to decline. Source – Stats NZ.

THE ratio of sheep to people in New Zealand dropped to its lowest level in more than 160 years in 2022, and there were also fewer dairy cattle and deer in New Zealand’s paddocks.

However, New Zealand’s official data agency, Stats NZ, said the final results of the five-yearly Agricultural Production Census 2022 released this week showed beef cattle numbers had stabilised.

The 2022 survey of farming production and practices has revealed small decreases in the national dairy herd and sheep flock, with dairy cattle numbers down 1 percent from the previous year.

New Zealand’s national sheep flock at June 2022 was 25.3 million. This was a drop of 400,000 sheep compared with the previous year, representing a 2pc decrease. Despite total sheep numbers continuing to fall there were 22 million lambs tailed in the 2021‒2022 year.

NZ Stats general manager of economic and environment insights Jason Attewell said the ratio of sheep to people dropped below five to one in 2022, for the first time since the 1850s, when national sheep numbers were first recorded.

“In 1982, New Zealand sheep numbers famously sat at 22 per person.

“Australia currently has three times as many sheep as New Zealand, though their ratio is only around three sheep to every Aussie,” Mr Attewell said.

Mr Attewell said the total number of dairy cattle was 6.1 million at June 2022.

“This is 8pc lower than in 2014 when the total dairy cattle herd peaked at 6.7 million.”

While the dairy cattle herd has decreased in both islands, the North Island has seen a much larger fall. Across the North Island dairy cattle numbers fell by 11pc (431,000) compared with 2014 (when dairy cattle numbers peaked). In contrast, South Island dairy cattle numbers fell only 5pc (131,000) compared with 2014.

The number of beef cattle in New Zealand has stabilised around 3.9 million. Beef cattle numbers peaked at 6.3 million in the 1970s and totalled 3.5 million in 2016, a historic low. More recently the number has stabilised and totalled 3.9 million in both 2019 and June 2022, NZ Stats said.

New Zealand’s beef cattle numbers stabilised in 2022. Source – NZ Stats.

Source – NZ Stats.


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