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  Environment » Environmental Information » Environmental indicators » Land and soil: monitoring and reporting » Stock density

Stock density

Why we monitor stock density

Waikato Regional Council uses stock density to indicate where there are current and possible future pressures on the environment from livestock farming. High stock densities can lead to effects on local water quality, stream banks and soil. For example:

  • increased nitrogen leaching to ground water
  • Photograph of dairy cowsmore runoff of sediment, nutrient and bacteria into waterways
  • damage to soil quality from pugging and compaction
  • erosion or damage to riparian (streamside) areas and wetlands
  • damage to habitats for stream life.

Waikato Regional Council calculates stock density in the seven major water catchment zones in the Waikato region. This helps us determine how stock pressure is affecting water quality in different parts of the region. For example, river water quality monitoring shows that water quality for ecological health is poorer in the Hauraki, Waipa, Lower Waikato and Middle Waikato water catchment zones, where stock density is highest.

Waikato Regional Council will monitor changes in stock density over time to indicate where pressure from stock on the environment is increasing. Stock densities in the Waikato region may increase over time if:

  • the trend towards dairy conversion continues 
  • technological advances lead to more intensive farming systems.

What's happening?

Waikato Regional Council monitors stock density to find out where livestock farming is likely to have the most effect on soil and water quality in the region. We recognise that the level of effects on the environment will also depend on local soil type, farm management systems and proximity to sensitive ecosystems. The stock density indicator helps us to target education and policy responses to protect soil and water quality in the areas where livestock farming is most intensive.

The stock density indicator shows that:

  • The highest stocking densities are in the Hauraki, Waipa, Lower Waikato and Middle Waikato water catchment zones. River water quality monitoring shows that water quality for ecological health (external link) is poorer in these zones than it is in the less developed parts of the Region.
  • In these zones, approximately 25 percent of farms are in the highest stock density class (greater than 24.5 stock units/ha or 3.5 cows/ha, most likely to be highly intensive dairy farms).
  • The lowest stock densities are in the Lake Taupo, Upper Waikato, West Coast and Coromandel water catchment zones. Water quality for ecological health is better in these zones than in more intensively developed parts of the Region.
  • In these zones, approximately 44 percent of farms are in the lowest stock density class (less than 10.5 stock units/ha, most likely to be sheep farms).

Waikato Regional Council will monitor changes in stock density over time to indicate where pressure from stock on the environment is increasing. Stock densities in the Waikato region may increase over time if:

  • the trend towards dairy conversion continues
  • technological advances lead to more intensive farming systems.

>>Find out more about these data and trends

More information

More detail on this indicator, including how and where Waikato Regional Council collects this information, is available in the Technical Information page.

Useful links

When this indicator is updated

This indicator is updated every five years

Contact at Waikato Regional Council

Environmental Scientist – Science and Strategy

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