Data from the National Freight Demand Study 2014, especially Table 3.33, indicate that in the year 2012 livestock movements accounted for about 3.6% of the freight tonnes moved and 4.7% of the freight tonne-kms moved. However, these percentages were considerably higher in several regions, including Waikato, Gisborne, Otago and Southland, where livestock accounted for over 10% of the originating freight tonne-kms.

Data on livestock movements are collected confidentially under the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme(external link). The non-identifiable summary statistics presented here were authorised for release by the NAIT Data Access Panel in a letter to the Ministry of Transport dated 21 September 2016. The letter notes that NAIT cannot be responsible for the accuracy of the data released as movement data is entered by individual users of the NAIT system. The Ministry has not independently verified the data either.

The data show monthly movements of cattle and deer by origin territorial authority/region and destination territorial authority/region. Data for cattle are reported separately for dairy cattle and beef cattle, where this data is available; otherwise, the cattle are reported as ‘unspecified cattle’. Territorial authority and region data are shown as ‘null’ when NAIT does not have any region information for a farm (meaning all they have is the address written manually by the farmer, which they cannot display for privacy reasons).

Movement weights are estimated assuming each cattle animal weights 0.5 tonnes and each deer weights 0.1 tonnes. These assumptions were recommended by Murray King, co-author of the National Freight Demand Study, based on Beef and Lamb NZ and Deer Industry NZ data, using carcass weights and dressing percentages (that is, the estimated weight of the carcass relative to the live weight of the animal).

Movements may be either ‘completed’ or ‘pending’. Completed movements were reported to NAIT by both the shipper and receiver of animals. ‘Pending’ shipments were reported to NAIT by either the shipper or receiver but are not yet confirmed by the other party. Based on our consultations with NAIT, it is not clear what fraction of the movements listed in the pending movements section did or did not occur.

NAIT began operations in 2012 and registration compliance has improved over time. Workbooks for April-June 2017 and later have an additional sheet showing ‘Monthly Registration’ data for dairy cattle, beef cattle, unspecified cattle and deer. These show the number of live animals in the NAIT database during the indicated months (not the number newly registered animals during the month). This data is a useful indicator of the scope of coverage of the NAIT database. The figures here may be compared to Stats NZ estimates of total livestock numbers(external link).