Fewer cows, record total of milksolids
DAIRY: The latest stats are out and they tell a positive story
In an challenging year, the New Zealand dairy industry has produced a record total of milksolids . The DairyNZ and Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) statistics show that, in the 2019-20 season, our dairy companies processed 21.1 billion litres of milk containing 1.90 billion kilograms of milksolids (kgMS). This is a 0.6 per cent increase in milksolids from the previous season.
Average milk production per cow also increased from 381kgMS last season to 385kgMS this season, while the number of milking cows — 4.921 million — has dropped 0.5 per cent on the previous season. This is down from a peak in 2014/15 when there were more than 5 million cows.
DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says record milksolids production per cow was achieved despite cow numbers continuing to remain relatively stable, as farmers place more focus on cow productivity and environmental efficiency.
“The commitment by our farmers to improve the quality of their herds to drive better productivity and sustainability outcomes is good news,” Mackle says.
“While some of our key sectors have been hit hard by Covid-19, our dairy sector has proven extremely resilient through this period of uncertainty and is well-positioned to continue playing a key role in contributing to New Zealand's economy.
“The dairy sector directly employs 50,000 people and earns New Zealand roughly $20 billion in exports per year. The success of our dairy farmers is extremely important to every Kiwi and has real benefits for New Zealand.”
This latest cow census showed Kiwi dairy farmers are continuing to draw on a range of tools to ensure their cows are year-on-year more efficient at converting grass into milk.
The number of cows herd-tested for the year (3.689 million) was the highest on record , and equated to 75 per cent of all cows.
LIC chief executive Wayne McNee says the focus on cow quality is
evident in the increasing uptake of herd improvement services.
“Herd testing enables farmers to collect information about individual cows in their herds, and to monitor cow performance and wellbeing so they can make informed, effective herd management decisions on farm.”
Artificial breeding (AB) is another tool used by dairy farmers to increase productivity, although the 3.46 million cows were mated to AB in 2019-20 was a slight decrease.
“This year New Zealand is celebrating 70 years of artificial breeding for the national dairy herd, which has been game-changing for the value we deliver on farm,” McNee says.
“Interest in the highest genetic merit animals continues to grow yearon-year, with farmers investing in the latest artificial breeding technologies and indexes that focus on productivity, as well as animal welfare and the environment.
“It's what makes our cows gold medallists when it comes to efficiency and why, despite cow numbers reducing, our cows are more productive than ever.
”New innovations and agritech solutions will continue to play an important role in ensuring that our farmers can breed more productive and profitable cows, while achieving better environmental outcomes and improving herd resilience.”
McNee said more and more farmers were using Genomic Sires to create on-farm value. This enabled scientists to evaluate a bull's genetic merit with more accuracy at a younger age.
“LIC expects to complete 1.4 million genomic inseminations throughout the country this year, a growth of over 1 million inseminations in just three seasons.”