Farming in New Zealand

How much do you know about farming in New Zealand? The country is probably most famous for its sheep, but there are several other sectors you should know about. Farming/agriculture is the biggest industry in New Zealand and the one it’s most famous for. The main type of farming of sheep/cattle but there are many other categories.

Dairy Farming

New Zealand has become famous for its dairy products and in fact, it’s 8th biggest milk producer in the world. That includes 4 million dairy cows making more than 15 billion liters of milk yearly. There are specific regions in NZ that are famous for being dairy farming regions. There are several breeds of dairy cows in the country including Jersey, Holstein-Friesian, and Abshire. The cows are mostly grass-fed, which tends to produce the best results since cows are eating their natural foods.

The first milk-processing factories in New Zealand opened during the 1880s, and the country’s first milking machines appeared in 1893. About a century ago in 1920 NZ had 600 dairy factories throughout the country.

The biggest dairy company today is Fonterra. It’s a co-op that’s owned by about 11,000 farmers. The company supplies about 95% of the country’s milk. An interesting fact is New Zealand produces over 100 kinds of dairy products today including whole milk, butter, cream, cheese, buttermilk, and milk powder.

Sheep Farming

This farming sector had a big role in the development of New Zealand’s economy. In fact, it’s been the most critical agricultural industry of NZ for over one century. There’s a good reason why New Zealand is well-known for its sheep. For example, the country’s sheep population in 1982 was 70 million. That figure is lower today at seven sheep per person yet the country is still the biggest exporter of lambs in the world.

The New Zealand sheep are farmed for meat and wool. The terrain/climate in South Island makes it perfect for sheep farming. There are various tours in the region that allow you to see how sheep farming is done in the region. There are several popular kinds of sheep found in New Zealand including:

  • Coopworth
  • Corriedale
  • Drysdale
  • Merino
  • Perendale
  • Romney

Sheep shearing in the country has become big business, and each year about 220,000 tons of wool is produced from NZ sheep. Shearers frequently work in gangs and travel from one farm to another farm. A key issue is a technology has made shearing faster/easier, but it’s still tough work. When visiting New Zealand, you can view sheep-shearing demonstrations and competitions, which can be quite exciting.

Beef Farming

Cattle in New Zealand aren’t just farmed for dairy products but also their meat. The first cattle were transported to NZ back in 1814. They were very valuable during the pioneer days since they were able to survive the country’s tough terrain and could also pull very heavy loads. The cattle also provided meat. Cattle in NZ are often farmed with sheep, and the country is the biggest export of farmed venison.