Farm Ireland

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Dairy farmers earn seven times more than beef farmers

Dr Thia Hennessy, Head of the Teagasc National Farm Survey
Dr Thia Hennessy, Head of the Teagasc National Farm Survey
Farming in numbers
Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

Dairy farmers earn seven times more than beef farmers while there are also enormous regional disparities in farm incomes, according to a new study.

Farm income grew by 6pc last year to an average of almost €27,000, but there were massive disparities between farmers, the new Teagasc National Farm Survey shows.

It reveals that fewer than 20pc of farmers make over €50,000 a year, but some 40pc earn less than €10,000.

There are also enormous regional differences, with farmers in border and northern counties earning €371 a hectare or just half the €770 a hectare income seen in the more prosperous south-east.

Dairy farms are by far the most profitable, with average income rising 9pc to almost €69,000 last year. Teagasc survey head Dr Thia Hennessy said this was the highest on record, thanks to strong milk prices, though these have fallen back sharply since.

Dairy incomes do not include the impact of the EU's €69m super-levy fine for producing too much milk, as this is being spread over three years to reduce the impact. Teagasc estimate it would have knocked earnings back by 4-5pc if farmers had to pay it all at once.

Meanwhile, the country's 16,000 beef farmers rearing young cattle made an average of just over €10,000 last year.

Those fattening cattle for slaughter - around 26,000 farmers in all - earned just under €14,000, as low beef prices caused incomes to plummet by 12pc.

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Ireland's 6,500 tillage farmers had incomes averaging €28,468 last year, which was down slightly on the previous year as they cut back on acreage.

Sheep farmers saw an improvement in their fortunes, making an average of €14,551 last year - up 24pc on 2013 incomes as output and prices increased while costs reduced.

Those with mixed livestock farms - typically including around 45 dairy cows as well as beef cattle - also saw an improvement, with incomes rising by 14pc to €57,985.

Incomes on beef farms "compare pitifully" with the dairy sector, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) said.

"Even with an increase of 8pc, at €10,271 suckler farm income is still below the dole," said ICSA president Patrick Kent, noting increased incomes for sheep farmers had only partially restored huge losses the previous year. "These figures clearly illustrate how cattle and sheep farmers have been crucified by rapacious retailers and processors," Mr Kent said.

Irish Independent