CSO Farm Structure Survey: Everything you need to know about Irish farming

Structure on Farming in Ireland 2016.
Structure on Farming in Ireland 2016.

FarmIreland Team

There were 137,500 farms in Ireland in 2016, of which 137,100 were family farms. This represents a fall in farm numbers by 2,100 since 2013.

The figures are detailed in the Central Statistics Office (CSO) results of the 2016 Farm Structure Survey (FSS).

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

Age of Irish farmers

Continuing an on going trend in Irish agriculture on 30pc of farms, the holder was aged 65 or older while in just 5pc of farms the holder was under the age of 35. More than half (55pc) of all farm holders were 55 years or older.

Tom Dunne speaking about Combicrop where it has been harvested 1st September on Dunne's farm at Ballinaslee, Durrow, Co. Laois during a Teagasc Organic Farm Walk. Picture: Alf Harvey.

Part-time farming

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.

One in eight farms had other gainful activity on the farm as a supplement to traditional farming.

Forestry was the principal on farm non-agricultural activity, followed by agricultural contracting, other contracting, processing farm products and farm tourism.

One in eight (11.7pc) of the 137,100 family farm holders were female.

Number of farm animals in Ireland


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 (+4.0pc) and pigs (+3.4pc). The total number of poultry in the country increased by 9.1pc.

Specialist Beef Production was the most common type of farming in Ireland, with over 72,400 farms engaged in this activity. There were 16,700 Specialist Dairy Farms.


◾There was a total of 7.2 million cattle on 109,400 farms in Ireland, giving an average herd size of 66 cattle.

◾Over 60% of the cattle were located on 52,000 farms in the SE region, where the average herd size was 87 cattle.

◾Farms located in the BMW region had a smaller average herd size of 47 cattle.

◾There were 1.4 million Dairy cows, of which almost 80% were in the SE region.


◾There was a total of 5.1 million sheep in Ireland in 2016 held on 36,800 farms, an average flock size of 140 sheep per farm.

◾While the overall number of sheep in the SE region (2.3 million) was less than in the BMW region (2.9 million), the average flock size was over 50% larger, 182 sheep compared to 118 sheep.

◾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 (27.3%).

Pigs and Poultry

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

◾Almost one third of all pigs (481,900) were located in the Border region.

◾The largest average number of pigs per farm was in the Midlands (2,833).

◾There was over 11 million poultry in Ireland in 2016, the vast majority of which (71.6%), were in the BMW region. Average flock size in the BMW (1,760 birds per farm) was over double that in the SE region (681 birds per farm), with a particular concentration in the Border region (4,720 birds per farm).

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

Output on farms

The average Standard Output per farm surged 29pc over the period 2013 to 2016 to €45,945.  Three out of every ten farms had a Standard Output of less than €8,000, while one in five had a Standard Output of €50,000 or more.

Land use


There was almost 4.9 million hectares of Agricultural Area Used (AAU) 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.

Almost 4.1 million hectares was Grassland, with the remaining composed of Cereals (280,400), Other Crops, Fruit and Horticulture (71,100 hectares) and Rough Grazing (16,300 hectares).

Two thirds (280,000 hectares) of the total commonage was located in the BMW region. The South East region contained just over 80pc of the total land devoted to cereals.

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