Almost 60% of farmers are over the age of 50, while only 16% are under the age of 40, according to a new survey by a farmer representation group.

The farm succession survey, carried out by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA), was focused on farmers in the west and north-west of the country, with 406 farmers responding to the questionnaire.

The figures show that the greatest proportion of respondents – 35% – fall into the 51-60 age bracket, with a further 14% of farmers aged 61-65, and 10% aged 66 or over.

The data also shows that only 1% of farmers surveyed are under the age of 26, while a quarter of respondents are between the ages of 41 and 50.

Identified successor

The survey also profiled the age brackets of farmers who had an identified successor.

This part of the survey pivoted around the age of 50, with the majority of farmers younger than this not having a successor identified, while the majority of older farmers did.

However, 12% of the oldest farmers – those over 66 – do not currently have a successor, as is the case with 39% of farmers between 61 and 66.

This number was reversed for farmers aged 26-40, 12% of whom had a successor, while 88% didn’t at the time of taking the survey.

The figures show that among the youngest farmers – those under 26 – none of them had a successor currently.

Stocking numbers

The data shows that the highest proportion of respondents – 30% – had 10 cows or less, while the smallest proportion – 13% had over 20 cows.

These figures take into account the 17% of respondents who did not answer this part of the survey.

Just under a quarter of farmers – 24% – said they had 11-20 cows, while 16% answered ‘no cows’, indicating sheep-only farmers.

51-60 age bracket

The INHFA provided an analysis of the 51-60 age bracket noting that, among farmers in that age range and with 10-20 cows, only 29% had a successor identified.

The figures show that the proportion of farmers in this age range, across all stocking rates, with an identified successor, was almost double that figure – at 52%.

While the figure for farmers with 10 cows or less was in line with the average figure for the age range, those with 20 cows or more were more likely to have a successor in place – 67% of them responding that they did.

A similar trend could be seen for sheep-only farmers: 64% of them in this age range have a successor identified.