Third of farmers are over retirement age, while the number of young farmers declines

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Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Almost a third of farmers are at retirement age or above, while more than half are over 55.

The ageing profile of Irish farm holders represents an ongoing trend which has prompted fresh supports for young farmers in recent years. However, compared to 2013 the number of people farming under the age of 35 has fallen from 8,200 to 7,100, according to CSO figures.

The Farm Structure Survey shows there were 137,500 farms in Ireland in 2016, of which 137,100 were family farms. This represents a fall in farm numbers of 2,100 since 2013. One in eight (11.7pc) of the 137,100 family farm holders was female.

However, the average farm size increased marginally over the period to 32.4 hectares.

The average standard output per farm surged 29pc over the period 2013 to 2016 to €45,945.

Three out of every 10 farms had a standard output of less than €8,000, while one in five had €50,000 or more.

On 30pc of farms, the holder was aged 65 or older while more than half (55pc) of all farm holders were 55 years or older.

Just over half of farmers (53pc) viewed farming as a sole occupation, a quarter as a major occupation and the remainder as a subsidiary occupation.

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Specialist beef production was the most common type of farming in Ireland, with more than 72,400 farms engaged in this activity. There were 16,700 specialist dairy farms.

There were 7.2 million cattle in 2016, including 1.4 million dairy cows. There was a total of 5.1 million sheep, 1.6 million pigs, and almost 11.1 million poultry on Irish farms in 2016.

Since 2013 there were increases in the total number of cattle (+4.6pc), sheep (+4pc) and pigs (+3.4pc). The total number of poultry increased by 9.1pc.

The figures show more than 60pc of the cattle were located on 52,000 farms in the south-east region, where the average herd size was 87 cattle.

The highest number of sheep was in the west, with just over 1.4 million, representing more than one quarter of the total national flock (27.3pc).

Both pig and poultry farming continued to be an intensive activity carried out by a small number of specialised producers.

In 2016 there were 1.6 million pigs on 1,300 farms in Ireland, an average of 1,234 pigs per farm.

There was more than 11 million poultry in Ireland in 2016. Overall there was almost 4.9 million hectares of agricultural area used in 2016. Almost 4.1 million of this was grassland.

One-third of farms had land which was rented in, amounting to a total of 830,500 hectares.

About 20,000 rented more than half the land they farmed, and 5,700 farms rented all of the land they farmed.

Irish Independent

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