The New Zealand dairy industry

The New Zealand dairy industry is proud to produce dairy goodness which we share with the world.

With our natural advantages and unique combination of qualities as a country – care, integrity, and ingenuity – New Zealand is ideally suited to making one of the essentials for a healthy diet: MILK.

The goodness of milk is the foundation of our industry

Dairy starts with milk, the most naturally complete source of nutrition. A product whose versatility and proven health attributes have made it a core part of diets for millennia.

Pasture-fed dairy animals take something humans cannot eat and turn it into milk – a great, affordable source of nutrition to support human health throughout life. Milk and milk products are one of the most complete and nutrient rich sources of protein for the lowest calories (containing nine essential amino acids, riboflavin, vitamins A, D and B12, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and iodine). With superior protein quality and digestibility, milk and milk products are ideal for all stages of life, from the young to the elderly.

As a nutrient dense food choice, milk and milk products make a positive contribution to an affordable diet.

Milk is the number one contributor of calcium, riboflavin (B2) and vitamin B12 to Kiwis’ diets and the number two source of protein.

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New Zealand has a natural advantage in dairy

New Zealand is naturally blessed when it comes to making milk. New Zealand’s climate, soil and abundant water create the perfect environment for growing grass. Our cows can access pasture year-round following their natural inclinations to be outside. As an island nation, far from everywhere, New Zealand is free from many pests and animal diseases found elsewhere in the world.

These advantages, bestowed by nature and our geography, provide New Zealand a foundation for farming with ‘a lighter hand’ than many others are able to around the world. Our pastoral systems and good cow health translate to lower carbon footprints for New Zealand milk, low rates of antibiotic use and agricultural soils that have retained high-levels of soil carbon.

There is an industry wide commitment via the Dairy Tomorrow strategy to build on these foundations; farming in a way that cares for our cows, our land, our environment, and communities.

Incursions of pests and diseases that are harmful to our animals and farms can be both costly and devastating for our industry. DCANZ is taking a proactive business approach to biosecurity as a signatory of the Biosecurity Business Pledge. We work in partnership with the New Zealand government to ensure we are ready and able to respond to biosecurity emergencies through the Government Industry Agreement framework for joint decision making and response.

New Zealand dairy at a glance

New Zealand milk contributes to global food security

As one of a small number of net food exporting countries globally, New Zealand plays an important role in global nutritional security.

Not all countries share New Zealand’s favourable conditions for producing milk, so our exports help fill gaps and compliment local supply. Coming from the southern hemisphere, we often do this on a counter-seasonal basis.

New Zealand produces approximately 21 billion litres of milk every year. That is approximately 3% of the world milk production or a milk volume equivalent for two and a half serves of dairy per day for 90 million people. Being the world’s 8th largest milk producer with a population of just five million, we export over 95% of the milk produced in New Zealand, to more than 130 different countries worldwide.

Our farm systems mean New Zealand dairy provides high quality nutrients for a low carbon footprint. Emissions efficient exporters like New Zealand are part of the solution to the dual global challenge of climate change and nutritional security.

Our dairy production is backed with integrity & pride

New Zealand milk comes from a good place.

Trust in the quality and safety of New Zealand dairy products comes from our integrity as a country. New Zealand is consistently ranked the most transparent and least corrupt country in the world, and our food safety systems have been scored 100/100.

Our people, and their pride in dairy, are the foundation of our integrity as food producers. Around 70% of our farms remain owner-operated. With 200 years of dairy heritage, farming in New Zealand has developed as a highly skilled profession with all the pride that goes with that.

The spirit of New Zealand dairy is the spirit of ingenuity

Being remote from the rest of the world and farming in pastoral systems has its challenges, and that has made us innovators and reliable problem solvers. The New Zealand dairy industry produces more than 1500 different dairy products and product formulations from our milk. Over 100 years of research has led to breakthrough products like spreadable butter and instant mozzarella. New Zealand dairy technologists pioneered whey processing for high value nutritional products. Many on-farm technologies used around the world such as rotary milksheds and electric fences were invented here.

The New Zealand dairy industry does not rely on subsidies to be able to compete on the world stage (with a producer support level of less than 1% of farm receipts). It takes ownership for its own destiny, relying for survival on delivering great products that our customers want and value.

We are committed to caring for our people, cows, land and planet

Taking responsibility to care for our people, animals, and the environment is one of the fundamentals of the New Zealand dairy strategy (known as Dairy Tomorrow). This responsibility is supported by New Zealand’s regulatory frameworks for safety, employment, environmental protection and animal welfare, and underpinned by recognition of that the sectors reputation is the equal and shared responsibility of all participants in our value-chain.

Care for our land comes from the desire of every farmer to leave the land better than they received it and to be guardians of our natural resources for future generations. That’s why the industry established the Sustainable Dairy Water Accord in 2013 as one of New Zealand’s largest hands on environmental efforts, leading to 100% of farmers being assessed for effluent management practices and 98% of (accord) waterways having dairy cattle excluded. It’s also why work is underway to support every farmer to a have Farm Environmental Plan in place by 2025, building on the 2018 Good Farming Practice: Action Plan for Water Quality and supporting farmers to better manage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Change Action Partnership.

Care for our people is underpinned by our rich culture and sense of what it means to be New Zealanders. The New Zealand dairy industry is a well-paying industry. Job growth in dairy has outpaced that in the rest of the New Zealand economy, and the sector provides for up to a third of jobs in some districts in New Zealand.

Our care for animals respects and honors the role they play in our lives, supporting nutrition and livelihoods. New Zealand has a world leading animal welfare framework. The UK’s largest animal welfare charity has recognised New Zealand’s farmed animal welfare standards as being equivalent or greater than the UK’s.

Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand DCANZ banner 2

Dairy is a major contributor to New Zealand communities

New Zealand is a good place to live. We are ranked seventh in the world for global gender equality, second for prosperity and eighth for happiness. Dairy makes an important contribution to New Zealand’s prosperity and wellbeing. It is the largest export goods sector in New Zealand accounting for approximately one in every three dollars New Zealand earns from goods export trade. But more than that, our dairy communities are an integral part of thriving rural life in New Zealand.

In the year to March 2020, New Zealand exported NZ$19.7 billion of dairy products, which supported NZ$10.2 billion of direct value add to the New Zealand economy. Dairy is New Zealand’s largest value-added contributor by far. In 30 years, dairy exports have grown from just over NZ$2 billion per year to almost $20 billion.

Dairy makes a significant contribution to economic activity across regional New Zealand, accounting for more than 5% of the GDP in 7 regions in 2019 (and more than 10% in four of those). The West Coast has the greatest share of GDP from dairy at 16%. It provides fulfilling and diverse careers for around 50,000 people, mostly in New Zealand’s regions and rural communities. New Zealand dairy jobs are well paying ones, with average wage levels for dairy farming and processing being higher than comparable industries.

Revenue from dairy exports flows to every region in New Zealand. Dairy farming and processing are top 10 purchasers from 1/3rd of all other New Zealand sectors, which account for 42% of GDP.

Dairy’s contribution to livelihoods and prosperity for New Zealand reaches far beyond our rural sector. By generating economic activity dairy helps to sustain our country’s infrastructure as well as cherished aspects Kiwi’s way of life, such as healthcare and education for everyone.

The dairy industry makes a significant contribution to the growing Maori economy. 10% of New Zealand dairy farms are in Māori ownership. Māori farming enterprises continue to grow and thrive as part of a diverse industry.

Our contribution extends globally

The New Zealand dairy industry has a long history as a trusted supplier of safe and sustainable dairy products, exporting for over 170 years and to more than 140 different markets. In 2019 New Zealand’s top five dairy export markets were China, Australia, the US, Japan and Malaysia. New Zealand dairy companies produce a full range of dairy products, everything from milk powders, butter, and cheese, to infant formula, specialty creams for bakers, and specialist nutritional products including for medical and sports nutrition.

The New Zealand dairy industry makes an active contribution to international dairy discussions and processes. As a member of the International Dairy Federation, DCANZ contributes technical and policy expertise into key challenges and issues for the global dairy industry. We are committed to a strong global food system and to playing our part in UN Sustainable Development Goal 2: End Hunger. As a signatory to the Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam, DCANZ supports and promotes sustainable development in the global dairy sector.

Our advocacy for continued removal of barriers and distortions from global dairy markets is consistent with target 2b of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 2.