New Zealand, once known as a nation of sheep, has around one million fewer of the animals in the most recent year surveyed, according to figures released by Statistics NZ.
But sheep still far outweigh the number of people with 29.8 million sheep as at June 30, 2014.
“The number of sheep fell by three percent from 2013. The last time the sheep number was below 30 million was back in 1943,” says agriculture statistics manager Neil Kelly.
For the same period the total number of beef cattle declined slightly. The number of dairy cattle increased by three per cent, to just under 6.7 million, with increases of 67,000 dairy cattle in the North Island and 148,000 in the South Island.
“These increases came mainly from the key dairy regions of Waikato, Canterbury, and Southland,” says Neil.
In 2014 the number of deer fell below one million for the first time, decreasing by 70,000 (seven per cent). The number of deer peaked at 1.8 million in 2004, but this has been falling since 2009.
New Zealand had 660 hectares planted in cherries at June 30, 2014, up seven percent since 2012. The main export markets for cherries were Taiwan, China, and Thailand.
The 2014 Agricultural Production Survey involved farmers and foresters in New Zealand. It covered land use, animal farming (livestock), arable crops, horticultural crops, forestry, and farming practices (including fertiliser and cultivation).
The survey was conducted in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries.