New Zealand dairy cull cow numbers have increased as farmers take advantage of higher beef prices.

The cull cow kill has been exceptionally high with 1m head culled between June 2014 and July 2015 as farmers remove the underperforming animals from their herds.

Matthew Newman, senior economist with DairyNZ told AgriHQ that cull cow numbers have increased by 185,650. This is an increase of 21%.

New Zealand dairy farmers are culling for multiple reasons, he said, with the strong beef price has been cited as the main reason.

Dairy culls that were almost valueless last year are now a valuable cash-flow improving item.

However, this is not the sole reason for increased culling.

He also identified the poor milk price paid during a difficult year of dry weather conditions as the other reason. As a result New Zealand milk production slipped 2% in 2014, he said.

“There are three main reasons for the increase in culling rates – higher beef prices, lower milk price and early dry summer conditions.”

Lee McDonald, South Island Dairy Farmers also told AgriHQ that their culling rates have increased. McDonald predicts that their culling rates will double with early estimates of 15-17%.

Andrew Hoggard, Federation Farmers Dairy chairman said that milk production in New Zealand could fall in 2015.

He explained that it is difficult to predict how much milk production will be down but he was confident that it will not be a boom year.

“My gut feeling is that it will not be a super-boom year in terms of production.”