Stats NZ has a new website.

For new releases go to

As we transition to our new site, you'll still find some Stats NZ information here on this archive site.

  • Share this page to Facebook
  • Share this page to Twitter
  • Share this page to Google+
Agricultural Production Statistics: June 2012 (final)
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  13 May 2013

This release contains final results for key livestock, forestry, arable, and horticultural crops from the 2012 Agricultural Production Census. Statistics in this release may differ from the provisional statistics published in December 2012. Since the provisional release, more survey responses have been received and further processing and analysis of data has been done.

Figures in this release are rounded. All percentages are calculated using unrounded figures.

Dairy numbers up by a quarter in the last five years

Total dairy cattle numbers have increased by 23 percent since 2007 to a total of 6.4 million in 2012. Strong international demand and favourable milk solid prices prompted increased investment. More farms were converted to dairy farming and more farms provided dairy grazing.

Dairy cattle numbers in Canterbury rose sharply between 2011 and 2012, with an increase of 19 percent (194,000). This is the biggest annual increase at a regional level for any type of livestock for the last two decades.

Graph, Dairy cattle in the North and South islands, 2002 to 2012.

The national milking herd is now 5.0 million, 843,000 more than reported in 2007. Most of this increase came from the South Island, with Canterbury increasing by 344,000 cows, Southland increasing by 171,000, and Otago increasing by 85,000. The North Island milking herd increases were mainly from Waikato, which increased by 121,000 cows, and Manawatu-Wanganui, up by 58,000.

Sheep numbers drop below those of the United Kingdom 

New Zealand now has fewer sheep than the United Kingdom's 2011 total sheep numbers. In 2012, we had 31.3 million sheep, a decrease of 19 percent (7.2 million) since 2007. The major causes were competition for farm land from the expanding dairy industry, and disappointing farm gate prices for sheepmeat and wool. The fall in sheep numbers has been more pronounced in the South Island, which has experienced more vigorous growth in dairying.

Since 2011, however, sheep numbers have increased by 0.4 percent (130,000). The 2011 lambing season was better than that of the previous year and since 2011, export prices for sheepmeat have remained at higher levels than those achieved between 2007 and 2009.

Graph, Sheep in the North and South islands, 2002 to 2012.  

Beef numbers continue to fall

Total beef numbers have declined since 2007, despite relatively buoyant beef prices since 2010. In 2012, there were 3.7 million beef animals, a decrease of 659,000 (15 percent) compared with 2007.

Because most beef farms are in the North Island, there were larger decreases in the North Island than in the South Island. Total beef numbers in the North Island declined by 489,000 animals (16 percent) and in the South Island by 171,000 animals (14 percent) between 2007 and 2012.

Hawke's Bay was the only region with a significant increase in total beef numbers between 2007 and 2012, with an increase of 33,000 (7 percent). A recovery following a drought in that region in 2007 contributed to this increase.

Graph, Beef cattle in the North and South islands, 2002 to 2012.

Deer numbers decline

There were 1.1 million deer in 2012, a decrease of 24 percent (335,000) since 2007. The national deer number has been declining due to competition from other types of farming activities and some large deer farms leaving the industry.

 Graph, Deer in the North and South islands, 2002 to 2012.

Fewer pigs in New Zealand

There were 314,000 pigs in New Zealand as at 30 June 2012, a decrease of 14 percent (53,000) from 2007. In the year ended June 2012 the decrease in total pig numbers (by 13,000) was primarily on account of 11,000 fewer baconers, porkers, and weaners.

New Zealand's largest pig farming regions were Canterbury and Waikato, with 54 percent and 12 percent of the national total, respectively.

Irrigable land increases, especially in Canterbury

In the past five years, the total area reported by farmers that could have been irrigated increased by 102,400 hectares, to a total of 721,700 hectares in 2012. Canterbury accounted for nearly 60,000 hectares (58 percent) of the total increase since 2007. This increase supported the large increase in dairying that also occurred in the region. Government-funded irrigation projects and farmers converting from flood systems to more efficient spray systems were causal factors.

Southland also had a significant increase in total irrigable land, increasing by 9,700 hectares (127 percent) between 2007 and 2012.

When comparing the types of irrigation, flood systems decreased nationally by 16,400 hectares (17 percent) and spray systems increased nationally by 122,800 hectares (21 percent) for the five-year period ending June 2012.

New area of exotic forest planted up 4,100 hectares in 2012

There were 11,300 hectares of new area of exotic forest planted in 2012, 4,100 hectares more than in 2011. Planting schemes such as the Afforestation Grant Scheme and the East Coast Forestry Project have resulted in a large increase in the past two years.

During the year ended 31 March 2012, the area of exotic forest replanted was estimated at 40,200 hectares, 17 percent more than in 2011. Regions that had the largest increases of replanted area were Northland, Bay of Plenty, and Gisborne.

During the year ending 31 March 2012, there were 48,200 hectares of exotic timber harvested, 2 percent more than the previous year. Strong international demand continued to drive the increase in harvesting activities. All the increases in this period occurred in the North Island.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has more information on forestry trade and production. 

Increased arable harvested area

The annual harvested area of wheat and barley increased by 14,300 hectares (35 percent) and 14,200 hectares (28 percent), respectively, between 2007 and 2012. Canterbury was the main growing area for barley, with two-thirds of the national harvest.

The increases in the harvested areas for both wheat and barley was due to good international grain prices for the 2011/12 year and domestic demand for these grains as a stock feed, particularly for dairy cows.

The year ended June 2012 was a good growing season for arable crops, with harvests significantly better than the previous year.

Grapes increase in Marlborough region

The area planted in wine grapes has grown significantly since 2007, increasing by 4,950 hectares to a total of 34,560 hectares in 2012. Marlborough, the largest wine growing region, increased its planted area by 5,460 hectares to a total of 22,630 hectares in 2012. The sauvignon blanc grape variety continues to dominate the industry and has contributed to the growth in Marlborough. There were slight decreases in regions such as Gisborne and Otago where other grape varieties are predominant.

During the year ended June 2012, the increase in the planted area for grapes remained relatively unchanged, partly due to lower grape prices. 

Graph, Area planted in wine grapes, 2002 to 2012.

Gold kiwifruit continues to replace green

Total gold kiwifruit canopy area continued to replace green, largely due to gold kiwifruit being more profitable than green. The canopy area of gold varieties increased by 770 hectares (34 percent) since 2007, to 3,070 in 2012. Green kiwifruit canopy area decreased by 1,000 hectares (10 percent) since 2007, to 9,500 in 2012.

There has been a small decline in the total area of kiwifruit canopy, from 13,080 hectares in 2007 to 12,760 hectares in 2012. Kiwifruit growers have been affected by the PSA-V disease, which resulted in a number of growers removing infected vines.

Area of potatoes and avocados increase

The area of potatoes harvested nationally increased by 1,530 hectares (15 percent) between 2007 and 2012, with 11,580 hectares harvested in 2012. The area of potatoes in Canterbury has increased by over one-third since 2007, and accounted for half of the national harvested area.

The planted area in avocado trees was 4,150 hectares in June 2012. Avocados are mainly grown in the Bay of Plenty and Northland regions. Northland's planted area has been steadily increasing, with nearly 20 percent more land in avocado trees between 2007 and 2012. Australia is the largest overseas market for our avocados, with over 80 percent of our exports heading across the Tasman.

For more detailed data see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

  • Share this page to Facebook
  • Share this page to Twitter
  • Share this page to Google+
  • Share this page to Facebook
  • Share this page to Twitter
  • Share this page to Google+