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NZ dairy herd rises to record 6.7M as sheep flock falls to 29.6M

New Zealand's dairy herd rose to a record 6.7 million at June 30, while the national sheep flock fell below 30 million for the first time since modern record began, underlining the continued lure of profits from milk over meat.

The nation's dairy herd rose 4 percent in the latest year, extending the long-term trend that has seen milk become the dominant farm product in New Zealand, at the expense of sheepmeat, venison, beef and pork.

The number of sheep fell 4 percent in the year ended June 30 to 29.6 million, less than half of the peak in the early 1980s of more than 70 million, according to the government statistician's provisional data. The herd of beef cattle fell 1.7 percent to 3.63 million, the lowest in more than a decade.

Total deer fell to 949,400 from 1.03 million, also the lowest in more than a decade. Total pigs fell to 285,500 from 297,700 a year earlier.

The value of New Zealand's dairy exports rose 27 percent to $15.5 billion in the 12 months ended Oct. 31, while mat exports rose 8.8 percent to $5.7 billion.

New Zealand added 3,900 hectares of land planted in exotic timber trees in the June 30 years, down from 9,700ha a year earlier, while replanting accounted for 42,200ha, down from 42,900ha.

Among plantings of outdoor fruit, land in apples fell to 8,480ha from 8,850ha in the 2012 year. Land in cherries fell to 610ha from 620ha, avocados declined to 3,880ha from 4,150 and kiwifruit fell to 12,170ha from 12,760ha.

As at June 30, there was 5,270ha planted in onions, down from 5,720ha in 2012, 4,750ha of sweet corn, up from 4,660ha and 6,200ha of squash, down from 6,840ha.