All up, stable cow numbers and some improvement in performance should solicit a 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent increase in milk production in 2018-19. As always, weather and pasture conditions will have the biggest say whether this materialises or not.
Peak milk production, new dairy farm conversions and cow numbers all appear to have coincided with the 2014-15 downturn in farmgate returns.
Regional council plan changes to address water quality, a slowing in irrigation development and improvements, high asset valuations, exiting of some marginal/smaller farmers and availability of suitable land to convert have all played a part too.
Milk production will finish the 2017-18 season some 3 per cent below the peak in 2014-15. Cow numbers will have dropped by a similar amount with lower average stocking rates across the sector and per head performance pulling back to the long-run trend of 380 milk solids/cow.