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There's just one real cash cow in Irish agriculture

Last week also brought the release of the latest Teagasc National Farm survey results and they confirmed what most farmers already know - that dairying is the only show in town at present.

Average dairy farm income last year hit €69,000. Those who also have a beef enterprise saw their incomes rise to almost €58,000. However, the average across all sectors was drastically lower than these figures, at just €27,000.

Looking at how far above the average that dairying is brings into sharp focus just how low incomes are at the other end of the spectrum, especially on livestock enterprises.

Average income on the country's 16,000 suckler beef farms was just over €10,000 while, for finishers, it was less than €14,000. Income on sheep farms was €14,500.

However, perhaps the most telling figure of all is that some 40pc of farmers earn less than €10,000.

This does not mean that all of these are living in poverty, though some undoubtedly are.

Many households have income from outside the farm.Some farms are too small or the land too difficult to generate a sustainable income from any mainstream farming enterprise.

Perhaps, over time, there will be a move towards seeing this land as other than an agricultural asset.

To my mind, Irish farmers can be divided into four categories of farmers by their income - Commercial (mainly dairying), Hobby and Poor (some type of livestock) and the Confused (be doing ok financially with current enterprise while recognising they could be doing better dairying).

A lot of land has been switched into dairying in recent years and it seems inevitable that this trend will continue.

Indo Farming