Farmers hit by weather extremes to see income fall by 15pc
Farm incomes have been severely hit by this year's extreme weather conditions, State agency Teagasc say.
Teagasc economists estimate that average farm income in 2018 fell by 15pc relative to the record level in 2017.
However, in its Annual Review and Outlook, Teagasc predicts that farm incomes will recover next year, assuming there are no more extreme weather conditions.
Dairy incomes were worst hit in 2018, down 22pc on 2017, while tillage incomes were up, on average, by 6pc this year.
The agency said the long winter led to increased early season production costs in 2018 due to delayed turn-out of animals to grass.
In turn, the extensive drought during the summer led to a collapse in grass growth and meant farmers had to use additional concentrate feeding, driving up their costs.
Overall, Teagasc is predicting an 8pc increase in the average farm income in 2019, with income to recover on dairy and drystock farms.
Teagasc economist Trevor Donnellan said 2019 would see a return to a more normal level of feed and fertiliser usage on farms.
He said dairying and sheep hade "strong positives" and added that net margins in the sheep sector were "quite respectable".
Irish milk production was up 3pc this year, as the dairy herd cow numbers increased by 3.5pc to 1.48 million, but milk prices were down 7pc.
Dairy farm incomes were expected to bounce back from this year's 22pc drop to rise by 10pc next year.
Gross margins on suckler farms are estimated to be down 19pc this year at €11,670, while gross margins on finisher enterprises are estimated to be down 11pc at €16,902.
Meanwhile, calf prices were down 10pc.