Livestock numbers

  • Image, Livestock numbers.

    Archived 27 April 2017

    Livestock numbers reflect changes in the number of farmed beef and dairy cattle, deer, and sheep across New Zealand. Livestock farming is a widespread land use in this country. It is important to monitor this use because it can affect the indigenous biodiversity, soil health, and water quality. Our figures are a record of livestock numbers as at 30 June each year.

    We classified Livestock numbers as a national indicator.

    Key findings

     Increasing trend in dairy cattle and total cattle

     Decreasing trend in beef cattle, sheep, and deer

    In 2014, New Zealand farmed around 29.8 million sheep, 10.4 million cattle (6.7 million for dairy), and 0.96 million deer.

    • Dairy cattle numbers increased 29.8 percent, from 5.2 million in 2002 to 6.7 million in 2014.
    • Beef cattle numbers decreased 18.3 percent, from 4.5 million to 3.7 million, over the same period.
    • These changes in dairy and beef cattle saw total cattle numbers increase 7.4 percent, from 9.7 million to 10.4 million.
    • Sheep numbers decreased 24.7 percent, from 39.6 million in 2002 to 29.8 million in 2014.
    • From 2004 to 2014, farmed deer numbers decreased 45.5 percent, from 1.8 million to 0.96 million.
    Note: Farmed deer figures are not included for 2002 and 2003 as they are not comparable with those from 2004 onwards due to a change in survey design. These figures were calculated at the end of June each year.

    Definition and methodology

    Livestock numbers come from the Agricultural Production Census and Agricultural Production Survey conducted by Statistics NZ with the Ministry for Primary Industries. The numbers include the national agricultural censuses for 2002, 2007, and 2012.

    Data for the years between agricultural censuses come from survey estimates.

    Although longer-term datasets exist, we do not present deer population figures for 2002 and 2003 – they are not comparable with figures from 2004 onwards due to a change in survey design.

    Data quality

    We classified Livestock numbers as a national indicator.


    relevance-direct This national indicator is a direct measure of the ‘Land use and land use change’ topic.


    accuracy-highThe accuracy of the data source is of high quality.

    See Data quality information for more detail.


    Published 21 October 2015


Related content

Access data files

Land use data


Related indicators

Land use


Related links

Environment Aotearoa 2015

Agricultural Production Statistics: June 2014 (final)

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