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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.



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Breeds of Cattle

The cattle brought to New Zealand by the early European settlers seem to have included many Shorthorns, originating in England, but some came through Australia. They were probably of mixed strains, some more suited to milk production, others to beef, and others intermediate. The developing trade in dairy produce demanded specialised dairy breeds; and the numbers of Ayrshires, Friesians, and Jerseys increased. Most of the change in the dairy cattle which occurred was brought about by using purebred bulls of the dairy breeds as sires in commercial herds. Their progeny were reared and used as replacements until, at the present time, many of the non-purebred or “grade” cattle differ very little from those of one or other of the pure breeds.

Of the total of 3,133,000 dairy cattle in New Zealand, 175,000 or 5½ per cent are registered pedigree stock, and the remainder are unregistered purebred and crossbred stock. Since 1950 there have been marked increases in the number of Friesians and Ayrshires, a marked decrease in the number of milking shorthorns and only a slight increase in the total number of Jerseys.

Other dairy breeds, such as the Guernsey, Red Dane, and Brown Swiss, which are important in other parts of the world, have very few, if any representatives in New Zealand.