The successful export of wool and meat encouraged a consistent growth in sheep numbers until the early 1980s, when the removal of subsidies and falling demand for wool led to a sharp decline during the last years of the 20th century. By 2014 sheep numbers were estimated at 29.6 million.
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Sources: G. T. Bloomfield, New Zealand: a handbook of historical statistics. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1984, and Statistics New Zealand