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Dairy farmers have spent one billion dollars protecting and improving the environment over the past five years

Land & Water

In January, February and March 2015, Federated Farmers and DairyNZ conducted a nationwide survey of dairy farmers to find out what they had spent on environmental initiatives over the past five years.

The spending of more than 500 farmers who replied to the survey was analysed across eight dairying regions, representing a five percent survey sample of New Zealand’s dairy businesses. Taking that information and using data and statistics from DairyNZ’s Economic Survey, the DairyNZ Economics Group has been able to calculate the collective environmental spending of the country’s 11,927 dairy farms over the past five years.

Key findings

Over the last five years the collective expenditure by 11,927 dairy farmers across the country is more than one billion dollars on environmental initiatives such as effluent management, stock exclusion, riparian planting, upgrading systems, investing in technology, retiring land for environmental reasons and developing strategic wetlands.

Dairy farmers on average have spent $90,000 each on the environment throughout the regions over the past five years.

The biggest dollars have been spent on effluent management which represents approximately 70 per cent of the total expenditure on environmental initiatives. This is followed by costs of excluding stock from waterways, retiring land from dairy production and riparian planting.

The Waikato region’s dairy farmers have spent over $350 million on environmental initiatives over the past five years followed by Canterbury and Southland farmers spending approximately $200 million in each region. Other prominent dairying regions have seen farmers spend between $40 million and $80 million on environmental developments.

On a per cow basis farmers in the Waikato and Otago-Southland spend the most at around $260 per cow, while Canterbury and the Bay of Plenty spent over $200 per cow over the past five years.

There are regional differences with $170,000 spent per farm in Marlborough-Canterbury and $150,000 spent per farm for Otago-Southland. At the lower end, Taranaki, Lower North Island and Northland farms all reported average environmental expenditure of around $50,000 over the past five years.

What do these findings show?

The survey findings demonstrate a significant commitment and investment by dairy farmers to farming responsibly. They show how much effort has gone into proactive stewardship of the land and management of dairy farming’s environmental impact over the past five years.


Download summary

Download this summary in pdf format here.

About the survey

Notes on the survey sample, response rates and assumptions (DairyNZ Economics Group)

  • Farmers who supplied incomplete information were removed for statistical reasons, leaving 528 farms to analyse across the eight dairying regions.
  • Overall the respondents represented approximately 5% of NZ dairy herds. The response rate was highest in Marlborough-Canterbury 7.7%; followed by Otago-Southland 6.5% and Bay of Plenty 5%. The lowest response rate was from Lower North Island with 2.7% of herds and Taranaki with 3.2%.
  • To avoid overestimation of the dollar spend per cows, figures for each region were scaled to the average herd size for each region. The national figures were then weighted by the number of herds in each region, on the same basis as the DairyNZ Economic Survey.
  • Where hectares were provided for retired land, the loss of land was valued at a conservative value of $5,000/ha to reflect bush, scrub and river banks etc.

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