Farm classes | Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Data & Tools

We provide accurate, independent information to help farmers, meat processors, consultants and other organisations with their planning. Below you’ll find data and tools you can use to make farming business decisions – from export statistics to economic reports to interactive tools.

Farm classes

This page explains the farm class system we use to categorise farm types in our economic reports – and how understanding your farm class can help you to benchmark your farm.

What is "all classes"?

The all classes distributions are weighted averages of individual farm class data to correctly portray a whole region or the New Zealand lambing percentage distribution.

They help you to evaluate where your lambing percentage sits nationally, within your region and within a particular farm class. If there aren’t enough observations within a class and region you’ll need to compare your farm with its whole farm class or your all classes region distribution.

Estimated number of commercial sheep and beef farms in each class:

  Sheep and beef farm survey 2017-18 farm class Estimated farms
South Island High country    200
South Island Hill country    620
North Island Hard hill country    920
North Island Hill country 3,055
North Island finishing 1,045
South Island Finishing breeding 1,820
South Island finishing 1,040
South Island Mixed finishing    465
  Total all classes 9,165



The eight farm classes

South Island high country

Extensive run country located at high altitude. These farms run a diverse mix of operations which include breeding sheep, often fine wooled, breeding cows and deer. Stocking rate is typically up to three stock units per hectare.  Located mainly in Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago.

South Island hill country

Traditionally store stock producers with a proportion sold prime in good seasons. Carrying between two and seven stock units per hectare, they usually have a significant proportion of beef cattle.

North Island hard hill country

Steep hill country or low fertility soils with most farms carrying 6 to 10 stock units per hectare. While some stock are finished a significant proportion are sold in store condition.

North Island hill country

Easier hill country or higher fertility soils than Class 3. Mostly carrying between 7 and 13 stock units per hectare. A high proportion of sale stock sold is in forward store or prime condition.

North Island finishing farms

Easy contour farmland with the potential for high production. Mostly carrying between 8 and 15 stock units per hectare. A high proportion of stock is sent to slaughter and replacements are often bought in.

South Island finishing-breeding farms

Farms which breed or trade finishing stock, and may do some cash cropping. A proportion of stock may be sold store, especially from dryland farms. Carrying capacity ranges from 6 to 11 stock units per hectare on dryland farms and over 12 stock units per hectare on wetter or irrigated farms. Mainly in Canterbury and Otago, this is the dominant farm class in the South Island.

South Island finishing farms

High producing grassland farms carrying about 9 to 14 stock units per hectare, with some cash crop. Located in Southland, South and West Otago.

South Island mixed cropping and finishing farms

Located mainly on the Canterbury Plains. A high proportion of their revenue is derived from grain and small seed production, as well as stock finishing or grazing.