The number of dairy cattle in Canterbury continues to rise, against a national trend of stable figures, Stats NZ said last week.

The 2017 Agricultural Production Census showed the total dairy cattle count dipped 1% from 6.62million in June 2016 to 6.53million in June 2017.

In Canterbury, dairy cattle numbers increased 3% from 1.27million in 2016 to 1.31million in 2017.

''The national dairy cattle total has stabilised since 2012,'' agricultural production statistics manager Stuart Pitts said.


''However, we've seen Canterbury numbers rise 9% over the same period.''

The amount of land irrigated for farming is increasing, the census showed. There was 747,000ha irrigated in 2017, up 7% from 2014's 700,000ha.

Canterbury is the main irrigated area, accounting for 478,000ha in 2017. That was a 12% increase on 2014's 429,000ha.

''Since 2014, an extra 49,000ha of Canterbury land has been irrigated - the equivalent of around 49,000 more rugby fields,'' Mr Pitts said.

''Over the same period of time, Canterbury has seen a large drop in arable farming, particularly of the grains grown for stock feed.''

Wheat and barley harvested in Canterbury dropped 19% (14,000ha) from 2016 to 2017.

Beef cattle numbers are rising after a decade of decline. The total number of beef cattle increased 2% from 3.53million in 2016 to 3.62million in 2017.

The national sheep flock showed little change from 2016 to 2107, easing from 27.58million to 27.53million.

Kiwifruit orchards are recovering from the hit they took during the PSA disease outbreak in 2010. The total canopy area of kiwifruit rose 7% from 11,000ha in 2014 to 11,700ha in 2017.

There was a 28% hike in gold kiwifruit canopy area, from 3700ha in 2014 to 4700ha in 2017. Green kiwifruit canopy area eased 4% from 7000ha in to 6800 in the same period.

More than 52,000 farmers provided information for the 2017 Agricultural Production Census, which is carried out by Stats NZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries every five years.

Central Rural Life