New Zealand Pattern
New Zealand beef farming does not follow the overseas pattern. It is a major project only in restricted areas unsuitable for sheep. Unimproved swampland subject to periodic flooding, and mountain pastures which have deteriorated due to sheep and rabbits, are good examples of country on which beef production is the sole objective. The primary function of beef cattle on New Zealand farms is pasture control for the benefit of sheep. The cattle are wholly grass fed from birth to slaughter. Although beef cattle have shown appreciable increases in recent years, the real importance of beef production must remain dependent on the comparative values of beef and lamb plus wool.
As there is still a distinct margin in favour of lamb plus wool, the number of beef cattle carried is determined (in the North Island at least) by the demands of pasture utilisation and sheep management. The production of the beef carcass remains a sideline and a marked change in the market values of beef, wool, and lamb is the only factor which could alter the situation. The economic importance of beef cattle on sheep farms is shown by their contribution to the total farm income. On high-country farms, where there are only small numbers of cattle, they contribute about 3.6 per cent of the farm income; on hill-country farms, where most of the breeding herds are grazed, the annual sale of cull cows, weaned calves, yearlings, and two-year-olds, all as stores, contributes 15 per cent of the farm income, while on the fat-lamb farms, where the stores from the hill country are fattened, the contribution is of the order of 8 per cent of the total income.