Dairy cattle livestock numbers in New Zealand 2010-2019

The number of dairy cattle on farms in New Zealand has increased overall since 2010 to reach 6.35 million cows in 2019. The milk produced from these cows is processed into a large variety of dairy products which are consumed locally and globally. Subsequently, the dairy industry makes up a large portion of New Zealand’s export income.

Dairy farming

Holstein-Friesian/Jersey crossbreed cows were the most common breed of dairy cow in the country. Farmers have been moving towards crossbred cows to combine the best traits from the two major dairy breeds. The Waikato and North Canterbury regions were the strongest in terms of dairy cow numbers. While dairy farming has historically been more dominant in the North Island, herd numbers in the South Island have been increasing. Most dairy companies in the country are farmer-based cooperatives, with Fonterra leading the pack.

Environmental impact

The environmental challenges facing dairy farmers across the country have increasingly been highlighted by the public and environmental groups. Water quality degradation and greenhouse gas emissions due to dairy cattle farming are two of the biggest issues that have been debated. In response, the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord was implemented in 2013 as a set of national good management practice benchmarks aimed at lifting environmental performance of dairy farms.

Number of dairy cattle livestock in New Zealand from 2010 to 2019

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Release date

December 2019


New Zealand

Survey time period

2010 to 2019

Special properties

as of June 30 of each year

Supplementary notes


Source: Stats NZ and licensed by Stats NZ for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Values have been rounded.

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