Are dairy farmers the only ones making money?

Farm income varies significantly by farming enterprise. The average farm income across the 83,377 farms represented by the Teagasc National Farm Survey was €24,060 in 2016.

The average dairy farm income in 2016 was €51,809, according to a preliminary estimate from Teagasc’s National Farm Survey results.

Dairy farms are consistently the most profitable enterprise.

Cattle-rearing enterprises reported the lowest average farm income in 2016, at €12,908. “Cattle farmers are still very reliant on direct payments, which comprise a large proportion of their income,” said Brian Moran of the Teagasc National Farm Survey.

The average sheep farm income remained stable at €16,011.

Meanwhile, tillage farms were severely affected by a decline in crop yields and a reduction in the price of cereals; this resulted in a 10% fall in average farm income to €30,816 in 2016.

income by farm system dairy sheep cattle drystock NFS
Source: Teagasc

Large variation across farm systems

The large variation in average farm income across the different farm systems is driven by differences in both farm size and profitability.

Irish drystock farms are characterised by low profitability and small holdings.

The average farm size in 2016, across all systems of farming, was 47ha and the average income level per hectare was €517.

The average-sized dairy farm was 56ha, with an income of €924/ha. In contrast, the average cattle-rearing farm was 36ha, with an income of €358/ha.

While having a higher average farm size than cattle enterprises, sheep farms had the lowest average farm income per hectare, at €311/ha.

NFS income by farm system dairy drystock sheep varied
Source: Teagasc

Year-on-year change

Dairy and tillage farms experienced the greatest percentage change in farm income from the previous year.

Dairy farm incomes decreased by 17% on average in 2016; primarily due to the reduction in milk price. Farm income on tillage farms was also negatively impacted in 2016, with a decline of 10%.

On the other hand, average farm income for cattle enterprises increased marginally in 2016, despite a reduction in prices. This was attributed to an increase in support payments. Sheep farm incomes remained stable, decreasing – only slightly – by 1% year-on-year.