Cows now outnumber humans in New Zealand

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Cows now outnumber humans in New Zealand

New Zealanders who for decades have endured jokes about being outnumbered 20-to-1 by sheep have a new farm animal majority to worry about: cows.

A record 5.8 million dairy cattle were counted in the year ended June 2009, Statistics New Zealand said Tuesday — well more than one animal for each of the country’s 4.3 million citizens.

In contrast, sheep numbers declined to some 32 million in 2009, less than half the peak of 70 million reported in 1982.

This isn't necessarily good news. Cows need far more water, create far more manure (14 times a single human per cow) and need far more fertilizer to produce grass to feed them. That stresses the environment more than sheep ever did, for the high profits only a few.

Land that was previously unsuitable for cows has is increasingly being modified to handle cows destroying delicate ecosystems and altering traditional landscape features.

As more marginal land comes under dairy farms some businessmen farmers now want to have enclosed dairy sheds where cows will spend most of their lives indoors. This concept is abhorrent to most New Zealanders, who treasure the traditional grass fed, outdoors cow landscape.

Factory farming is the antithesis of the New Zealand self image, of healthy outdoors cows and healthy milk. Protests over the building of factory farms is so great that the government has become involved to prevent factory farms from being built.

“Increased numbers in the milking herd have resulted in there being one milking cow for every New Zealander,” farm statistics manager Gary Dunnet said. “In 2009, New Zealand had fewer than eight sheep per person.”

The new figures are unlikely to do much to discourage the ribbing New Zealanders often get on the topic get when they travel abroad.

In the popular HBO series “Flight of the Conchords” about two New Zealand musicians living in New York, a tourism poster hangs in an office of the country’s consulate showing a flock of sheep staring out and the slogan: New Zealand Ewe Should Come. The 2006 movie “Black Sheep” made fun of the disparity in a dark comedy about genetically mutated sheep who turn on their owners on a New Zealand farm.

Statistics New Zealand said cow numbers last year were 4 per cent higher than in 2008 and up 76 per cent from 3.3 million in 1989.

The dairy herd’s expansion was due to the conversion of sheep and other farms to the more lucrative dairy industry and to the growth in the number of milking cows in existing herds.
By netchicken: posted on 10-2-2010

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