Dairy Breeds

Three dairy breeds (Holstein-Friesian, Jersey, and Friesian/Jersey crossbreed) dominate the dairy cow inseminations carried out in New Zealand.

The Jersey breed dominated the national dairy herd until the late 1960s. By 1970, Holstein-Friesian was the dominant dairy breed in New Zealand, as a result of changes in farm management practices and farmers raising larger numbers of dairy calves for beef.

Of the other breeds of cattle used to inseminate dairy cows, the main beef breed currently in use is Polled Hereford. Other beef breeds used to a lesser degree include Angus, Belgian Blue, and Simmental.

Other breeds of dairy cattle, present in smaller numbers in New Zealand, include Milking Shorthorn, Guernsey and Brown Swiss. Holstein-Friesian/Jersey crossbreed is emerging as a breed in its own right for the insemination of dairy cows. The percentages of the major dairy breeds for New Zealand:

Holstein – Friesian 44.7%
Jersey 14.2%
Holstein – Friesian/Jersey 32.8%
Ayrshire 0.9%
Other 7.3%

Brief History of Dairy Farming in New Zealand

Dairy cattle were first imported by European settlers in the early 19th Century to provide milk, butter and cheese for local supply. As early as 1846, only six years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the first exports began. By 1882 New Zealand was exporting the first refrigerated shipment - a worldwide first - of meat and butter from Port Chalmers, Dunedin, to London on the ship "Dunedin".

Refrigerated shipping, New Zealand's temperate climate and a highly innovative and efficient dairy industry based on farmer-owned co-operative dairy companies enabled dairying to grow into New Zealand's most important industry. Since the 1970s there has been significant diversification in both dairy products and markets. Now the United States is our largest market and United Kingdom is about our 10th largest market - surpassed by Japan and several other Asian markets that barely existed 30 years ago.