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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.



Distribution of Sheep

Sheep farms take up nearly half of New Zealand's land area. Much of this land could not be used for any other kind of present farming. Most sheep are on the drier eastern portions of the two Islands; the west coast of the South Island, with its high rainfall, runs very few sheep. The west coast of the North Island is drier and carries more sheep, though not so many as on the east coast; 1964 figures show 41,671 owners of more than 51 million sheep; the average flock size from these figures is approximately 1,200 sheep. This table gives more detail and shows that flocks between 500 and 999 sheep predominate.

Size of Flock Range of Sheep Numbers Number of Flocks Size of Flock Range of Sheep Numbers Number of Flocks
1– 99 5,214 1,500–1,999 5,105
100– 199 2,744 2,000–2,499 2,701
200– 499 5,849 2,500–4,999 3,507
500– 999 7,806 5,000–9,999 692
1,000–1,249 4,089 10,000 and over 142
1,250–1,499 3,822

In general, the most fertile land is reserved for dairying and intensive farming; but only the highest and most barren country supports no sheep at all. Carrying capacity varies greatly. Some of the high country in the South Island, covered with sparse native grasses and tussock, carries maybe one sheep to 10 acres; improved pastures, heavily topdressed, carry six or more sheep to the acre.

Next Part: Types of Farming