EU payments critical for beef with barely '10pc economically viable'
Direct payments continued to keep cattle farms going last year, accounting for up to 50pc of total gross output on cattle-rearing and finishing farms.
Less than 10pc of cattle-rearing farms were economically viable businesses last year, Teagasc figures show.
While the average farm family income (FFI) increased by 7pc on cattle-rearing farms and by 5pc on store and beef cattle ('cattle other') farms, both systems were loss-making enterprises last year.
The 23,500 cattle-rearing farms represented in the National Farm Survey are mainly suckler herds.
Stronger cattle prices last year resulted in an 11pc lift in the market-based gross output from these farms.
However, these farms continue to rely heavily on direct payments to survive and, last year, direct payments accounted for half of the gross output on cattle-rearing farms.
The majority of cattle-rearing farms are small farm businesses, with only 8,000 of the 23,500 farms exceeding 30ha in size.
Teagasc analysis found that almost 40pc of cattle-rearing farms earned €3,500 or less last year, while less than 10pc earned €20,000 or more.