Comparing apples with milk – updated

Update: The tech fairy is playing games with this post.

It first made the comments I wrote below the picture, which I found on Facebook, disappear. Then it got rid of the all the links in the side bar.

Because of that I’ve dumped the picture and typed what it said:

If everyone went vegan, would it destroy our economy?

The milk industry uses 1,638,706 hectares of land. With this it employs 45,000 people and earns, $NZ10.4b in profit annually.

Per hectare of land that is:45000/1638706 = 0.027 employees and 10.4×106 = $6.346.47 in profit.The horticulture industry uses 121,000 hectares of land. With his, it employs 50,000 people and earns $NZ 4b in profit annually. Per hectare of land that is 50000/121000 = 0.4 employees and 4×106 /121000 = $33.057.85 in profit.

Changing land from dairy to horticulture would employ 15 times as many people and improved New Zealand’s profit 5-fold.

No it would probably improve it.

I have no idea if those figures are correct but even if they are, there is a serious problem with the reasoning because it’s not comparing apples with apples.


Not all land which is suitable for dairying is suitable for horticulture.
Many horticulture products are fragile, don’t travel well and have short shelf-lives. If they’re not sold they perish; milk powder travels well and can be stored for ages.
Dairy products are high in protein and calcium, few if any horticulture products have these nutrients.
Markets which want dairy products want dairy products. If they can’t buy ours they’ll buy someone else’s, they won’t swap to fruit and vegetables instead.
The anti-dairy lobby is visible and vocal but if this picture is typical their arguments are long on emotion and short on facts.

5 Responses to Comparing apples with milk – updated

  1. Kiwiradarman says:


    That looks like a third formers analysis!
    I have family backgrounds in both farming and horticulture
    The simple fact is that most farmland is not suitable for horticulture!
    In fact most of NZ is only suited to pastoral farming and DoC has most of the rest.

    Horticulture also has serious requirements for water and a lot more chemical interventions per hectare! (yes including the ‘natural’ potions used by organics!)

    The beauty of NZ agricultures success is that we have been very successful at finding new crops for our growing conditions and a relentless pursuit of production efficiency.


  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    However much you accept the figures it does point to the fact that dairying may not be the only viable form of farming. The problem with any monolithic approach to agriculture is that if all one’s eggs are in one basket than the risk for some catastrophic event to wipe out the industry is greater. A severe outbreak of Foot and Mouth could be devastating for the diary industry and New Zealand’s economy.

    Southland has completed a topo-climate survey that provides useful information to match land use with the most sustainable form of farming and this was largely ignored during the dairy boom. We probably need to have a more balanced mix of horticulture and animal farming to ensure economic security into the future.


  3. homepaddock says:

    Kiwiradarman – exactly. We’ve learned over generations to do what we do best, we do it well and we’re constantly improving the way we do it to protect the environment.

    Dave – We’ve got a variety of primary produce, animal and plant, all of which are vulnerable to disease as we’re seeing now in kiwifruit.

    Decisions on what to do with land should be based on a variety of factors. The more science and economics and less politics and emotion involved the better the decision is likely to be.


  4. Glen Herud says:

    They are probably not aware of the inconvenient truth that horticulture leachs more nitrate than dairy.


  5. homepaddock says:

    Thanks for that and for introducing me to milkingonthemoove, Glen.


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