But the listing of principal dairying districts has one grave fault of underplaying the very strong trend during the past 20 years towards sheep farming and the tendency of the dairy farms to carry an increasing number of sheep. Perhaps the most unique feature of Southland farming is the farm which contains both a milking and a shearing shed. Since 1921–22 the ratio of cows in milk per hundred sheep shorn for Southland county has fallen from 6.03 to 0.54; the cows in milk numbers have fallen by 58.83 per cent and the regional figure has fallen by 57.06 per cent. Despite the fact that the dairying industry was first established in Southland (with the building of the Edendale cheese factory in 1881), the contribution to national production, both in absolute and in relative terms, has fallen from 3.3 per cent in 1934–38, when 12,753,000 lb of butterfat were processed, to 1.3 per cent in 1959–60, when 6,222,000 lb were processed. Inevitably the export of cheese through Bluff has declined from 13,777 tons in 1930 (a high-point year) to 4,990 tons in 1960. These developments can be regarded only with favour. The decline in production has been associated with greater efficiency per cow and, of greater significance, production has swung away from those commodities whose marketing future appears bleak.
The productivity of Southland's farming is at times astonishing. Admittedly the following statistics refer to one of the most advanced farms and their utility is reduced by the absence of income and expenditure figures. For instance, a 234–acre diversified farm in the Edendale Plain worked by the manager and one permanent labourer carried 35 Friesian milk cows and replacements, 1,050 Romney ewes and replacements, and approximately 15 to 20 Aberdeen Angus for fattening. Butterfat production averaged 400 lb per cow, wool clips 11 lb per sheep, and the lambing percentage was 125. Considering that on the plain the average carrying capacity is about 3.5 ewe equivalents per grassed acre, and that a capacity of five to six ewes is not uncommon, there seems little cause to doubt the projected 24–per-cent increase in sheep numbers during the next two decades. A much higher rate of increase is projected for the partially developed areas (326 per cent), where the number of sheep is likely to increase from 377,900 in 1960 to 1,612,800 by 1980, when, in addition, the at present undeveloped areas should be carrying 932,000 sheep. On the high-country runs sheep numbers are forecast to increase by 27 per cent, from 312,400 to 398,000, a development that will be dependent in part upon the utilisation of better management practices, aerial topdressing and oversowing, and in part upon a large extension of pasture-regeneration methods carried out in field trials at Mid Dome; trials so ecologically oriented that financial considerations have hardly entered the experiments.