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History of New Zealand dairy farming

Dairy farming has changed significantly over the centuries, from hand milking to machine milking. The size of farms and the expectations on farmers have also changed with time. Could fully automated farming systems be the way of the future?

1814

 

Samuel Marsden brought a bull and two heifers to New Zealand. Cows milked by hand in sheds.

1846

 

Dairy products first exported from NZ.

1882

 

Refrigerated shipping begins.

Early 1890's

 

Cream separators are installed in cow sheds.

The introduction of electricity leads to machine milking.

Milk factories are built.

1938

 

Farmers begin to use electric fences on their farms.

1945

 

There are 1.7 million cows, 40,000 farmers and 409 dairy factories in New Zealand.

1951

 

The first milk tankers appear.

1952

 

The herringbone shed is invented. This shed allows a much larger number of cows to be milked at once. The farmer works in a pit below - he no longer had to keep bending down to attach and detach cups.

1969

 

There are 2.3 million cows, 25,000 farmers, and the number of dairy factories has dropped to 229.
The rotary shed is invented by Merv Hicks in Taranaki. This is a round shed that has a rotating platform. It allows even more cows to be milked in similar time frames as before.

1994

 

There are 2.7 million cows, 15,000 farmers and 27 factories.

2001

 

The average farm size is now 105 hectares (ha) and 286 cows, compared to 72ha and 166 cows in 1990. There is not enough skilled labour to meet the farm needs.

The Greenfield Project is set up to determine the viability of automatic milking on NZ farms.

Get information sheet: Setting up the Greenfield Project's research farm.

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