Irish average flock size up to 107, as costs hits margins

The average Irish flock size in 2013 was 107 ewes, increasing from 103 in 2012, according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey.

It found also that just 16% of farms had flocks of 150 ewes or more and these farms accounted for 17% of total lamb production.

Income on sheep farms in 2013 dramatically declined when compared to 2012 (-36%). This is despite the average lamb prices received by the farms in the Teagasc NFS sample being marginally higher in 2013 than in 2012 from an average of €94 in 2012 to €95 in 2013. (+1%).

The income decrease on sheep farms in 2013 of 36% was due to a combination of increased direct costs and lower output driven by lower levels of agricultural activity on farms.

Input expenditure on sheep farms increased in 2013, with direct costs up 15%. This increase was almost entirely due increases in feed costs.

Concentrate feed expenditure increased by almost 20% while expenditure on bulky feeds increased by 62%.

The average sheep farmer operates a 53 hectare holding with approximately 137 ewes. The average stocking rate is 1.04 livestock units per hectare. The average Single Farm Payment per hectare is €229 for sheep farms, the lowest of all farm systems and considerably lower than the national average of €302 per hectare.

Direct payments per farm averaged at €18,569 in 2013, comprising 158% of farm income