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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Climatic Factors

These matters are among those determining the distribution of dairying in New Zealand. Northern and western districts experience high summer rainfalls and short winters, and their pastures thus have the capacity to produce feed in accordance with the requirements of a dairy herd. These districts also have areas of well drained soils which withstand trampling by cattle. In such areas dairy farmers have been able to outbid sheep farmers for land. Conversely, sheep farming predominates in southern and eastern districts.

The following statistics from the dairying province of Taranaki illustrate the importance of dairying and the system of grassland farming followed:

Area cultivated 819,386 acres
Area in grasses clovers, and lucerne 792,602 acres
Area topdressed 529,346 acres
Area cut for hay and silage 92,295 acres
Area in green, root, and other crops 14,898 acres
Area in cereals and peas for thrashing 1,701 acres
Dairy cows in milk 255,239
Breeding ewes 759,491

Separate figures for the different systems of farming are not available, but the statistics show the cultivated area to be nearly all sown to pasture with the greater proportion topdressed. Feed supplementary to pasture is supplied by hay and silage with some fodder crops. There is very little emphasis on cereals and cash cropping.

Reference has been made several times to the necessity of providing feed other than pasture to help supply the stock during periods of pasture shortage. Such provision is but part of a wider problem—that of feed organisation to cater for the overall needs of stock.

Under “seasonal” dairying, an endeavour is made to see that all the cows are dry during the winter when feed is in shortest supply, though there is much variation from farm to farm in dates when cows are dried off and intervals over which they are calved down again. Thus calving may start any time between early July and mid August, and drying off take place from late April to June. A good correlation between pasture growth and stock requirements usually results if calving is started about six weeks before spring growth is expected to be under way. This time varies from district to district.