Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 March 2018

Livestock changes see farm profits rise 31.5pc

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that profits increased by 31.5pc on average last year when compared with 2009.

This is a huge change on the previous estimate published in December that put the increase at 46pc. The main reason for the difference is a re-evaluation of the total number of livestock in the national herd.

Previously, the CSO had been relying on survey data from a sample of farmers. In the latest figures, the CSO used data from the Department of Agriculture's Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system for the first time.

This resulted in a massive 284,000 reduction in the overall number of cattle included in the figures; 181,000 of these were male.

This is reflected in last year's €135m decrease in total output for the livestock sector in the latest estimates. In addition, EU farm payments for last year were also reduced by €56m, due to the delays in payments that have only been fully paid out in the last number of weeks.

The final significant factor in the revision was the hike in feed costs in the second half of last year.

Despite the fact that the CSO estimate was out by just 0.5pc, this accounted for another €20m reduction in the overall profitability of the livestock sector.

The alterations wiped €207m off the profitability of farming last year. This equates to a €1,500 drop in farm income on average. The figures show that more than 80pc of the profit of the entire farm sector is derived from the €1.73bn of EU farm subsidies.

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The IFA expressed grave disappointment at the huge disparity between the two CSO estimates.

"Such discrepancies must be avoided in the future," said IFA president John Bryan.

When the first estimates for last year were published in December the IFA claimed that the cattle numbers used had over-estimated the national herd by at least 300,000hd.


The latest estimate is the second of three that the CSO calculate on the agriculture sector every year. The final estimate for last year will be published in June. The CSO has confirmed that it will be only using livestock data from the AIM from now on.

The latest figures show that the increase in operating surplus for the agriculture sector last year has completely reversed the 31pc drop in profit that the sector suffered between 2008 and 2009.

The biggest increase of any sector was seen in cereals, which increased by 89pc (€95m).

However, the most significant increase, from an overall value point of view, was in milk output, which increased by 40pc (€435m) last year.

Pig output was up by 9pc (€26m), sheep increased by 6pc (€10m), while cattle were marginally up by 2pc (€27m).

Their crops and livestock survey show a 12pc drop in cereal acreage last year compared to 2009. This equates to a drop of more than 86,000ac.

The biggest part of this decrease was for the area under barley, which dropped by 13pc, compared to a 10pc drop in wheat and a 5pc drop in oats.

The biggest decrease in stock numbers was accounted for by the 10pc drop in the number of male cattle under two years old, reflecting last year's strong live exports year.

Sheep numbers also fell last year, mainly due to the 100,000 drop in ewes of more than two years old.

The area under potatoes also decreased by around 5pc to 28,660ac.

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