The Big Picture

NZ Dairy timeline.

Pre 1900

1814

First cows to New Zealand.

1846

First export of cheese from New Zealand.

1871

First dairy cooperative formed in Otago.

1882

The first refrigerated shipment of meat and butter left Dunedin for London.

1884

The first Holstein Friesian cow was imported to the South Island by Canterbury farmer John Grigg.

1886

The Anchor brand was born.

1888

Anchor butter was first exported to Australia and Hong Kong and won a prestigious award at Melbourne’s Centennial International Exhibition.

1893

A Scottish mechanical milking machine was trialled in Mangere.

1900 to WW2

Early 1900s

First milking machines in usage.

1909

Organised herd testing began at the Dalefield Dairy Company, Wairarapa - testing the fat content of milk to stop unscrupulous farmers adding water.

1913

The country’s first lactose factory is built at Edendale, Southland, for the New Zealand Sugar of Milk and Casein Company. A growing market for casein develops, and within a few years 22 factories are producing curd for cheese manufacturing.

1915

The government begins a programme under its Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act to provide potential farming land for 9,500 soldiers returning from WW1.

1918

By the end of WW1, 7600 milking machines had been installed around New Zealand.

1923

New Zealand Dairy Control Board created to market dairy products overseas.

1927

Dairy Research Institute established, the first of New Zealand’s specialised research institutions.

1930

The number of cooperative dairy companies grows to more than 400.

1934

Keeping records of the production from offspring of a cow (progeny testing), and relating this to the bull parent (sire surveying), begins.

1937

Bill Gallagher Senior makes his first electric fence.

1939

Ruakura and Wallaceville research stations set up to help increase animal productivity.

1940s

1940s

Over 50 percent of New Zealand farms using milking machines. Walk Through predominant dairy type.

1945

Over the next 10 years, some 10,000 ex-servicemen are placed on the land under a Government rehabilitation programme.

1945

Cow population totals 1.7 million.

1948

The British-made Ferguson tractor arrives in New Zealand and revolutionizes many aspects of farming in New Zealand

1950s

1951

Introduction of tanker delivery of whole milk from farms to the factory.

1952

Waikato farmer, Ron Sharp develops the herringbone dairy, cutting milking times in half.

1955

New milking machine developed at Ruakura featuring stainless steel and automatic cleaning.

1955

Cooling of milk on-farm is introduced.

1957

Britain agrees to allow the free entry of New Zealand dairy products until 1967.

1960s and 1970s

1960s

Cow population totals 2 million.

1961

New Zealand Dairy Board established to market dairy products.

1969

Taranaki farmer, Merv Hicks, develops the first turnstyle dairy, the forerunner to the rotary (14 cow capacity).

1970s

The Government introduces a range of subsidies and incentives to encourage diversification of markets.Cow population steady at just over 2 million.

1973

Dairy exports face troubling times as the United Kingdom joins the European Economic Community.

1978

Supplementary Minimum Price scheme (SMPs) introduced to guarantee minimum income for farmers.

1980s and 1990s


1980s

More than 80 percent of farms milked through herringbones and average herd size is 130 cows.

1984

Labour government begins phasing out agricultural support and subsidies (SMPs).

1985

Ruakura Milk Harvester developed - many of the features of modern day milking appear on this system.

1990s

At the start of the 1990s 7 percent of dairy cows are farmed in the South Island. By 1999 this has risen to 22 percent of the national herd.

1995

The New Zealand Dairy Board is the world’s largest marketing network.

1996

Amalgamations of existing operations means only 12 cooperative dairy companies remain.

1996

The Dairy Board is dissolved with its assets transferred to the ownership of the cooperative dairy companies.

1997

The cow population reaches 3 million with an average herd size of 308 cows.

2000s

2000

By 2000 more than 95 percent of the industry is represented by the two largest dairy companies - the Waikato-based New Zealand Dairy Group and Taranaki-based Kiwi Co-operative Dairies.

2001

Dairy Industry deregulated. The two largest dairy companies merge to form Fonterra - the world’s largest dairy exporter.

2001

First cow milked with Automatic Milking System in New Zealand. Dexcel (now DairyNZ) researchers develop new farming method incorporating automatic milking into New Zealand pasture-based farming system.

2005

Cow population almost 4 million.  In 2007, 21 percent of dairies were rotaries - milking up to 800 cows in 2 hours with 2 people. Average herd size 327 cows.

2008

First commercial farms in New Zealand adopt automatic milking - Southland and Canterbury.

2009

Approximately as many cows in New Zealand as there are people (just over 4 million).

2011

New Zealand’s dairy cow population is increasing at a greater rate than the resident human population.  In the year ending June 2011 the total number of NZ dairy cows increased to just over 4.5 million cows, whereas the resident human population was 4,403,000.

The average herd size in New Zealand is 386 (year ending June 2011).

The Future

Genomic selection for pasture varieties will go hand-in-hand with the genetic identification of the most efficient dairy cow, leading to a leap forward in farm production efficiency.

The dairy industry is continually coming up with innovative ways to use resources more efficiently so that our milk is sustainable. Every innovation that makes it on farms which can lower our environmental footprint gives New Zealand’s milk a competitive edge.

A more coordinated approach to supporting staff training will ensure New Zealand dairy farmers continue to innovate and apply new technologies and maintain their worldwide leadership of pastoral farming

World class research, by scientists who understand dairy farming, will continue to advance the productivity and sustainability of the New Zealand industry.

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