New figures released today show dairy cows have now overtaken New Zealand's human population.
Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) showed there were now 4.4 million cows, compared to the 4.39 million New Zealanders.
South Island farms have, on average, more than twice the per-herd production than average herds in the North Island, reflecting a combination of larger herd sizes, a higher stocking rate, and high kilograms of milksolids per cow.
In the North Island, Hawke's Bay recorded the highest average herd production of 198,202 kilograms of milksolids.
Since 1979/80, total herd numbers have declined at an average rate of 160 herds per year, but for the second consecutive year, the total number of herds in the 2010 season increased by 73 (to 11,691).
At the same time, the average herd size continued to increase: herd sizes in 2010 grew on average by 10 cows, bringing the national herd average to 376. Nearly half (49 percent) of all herds - 5762 herd - had more than 299 cows, and 3% - 400 herds - had over 1000 cows.
The average herd size has tripled in the last 30 years and increased by more than 100 cows in the past eight years.