Average dairy debt surpasses €118,000 in 2018

Average farm debt increased by 10% on dairy enterprises in 2018 to €118,446, according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2018.

Overall debt on Irish farms increased by 2% in 2018, though debt and investment varied depending on enterprise.

Almost two-thirds of farms have no farm business-related debt – though this varied considerably depending on farm type.

60% of dairy farms had borrowings in 2018, compared to only 20% on sheep farms and 30% on cattle and tillage farms.

While investment on dairy farms was largely financed internally in 2017, average farm debt increased by 10% on dairy enterprises in 2018 to €118,446, the report notes.

Despite reduced investment on “cattle rearing” (suckler) and sheep farms, debt increased on average.

The average debt on cattle rearing farms was up 24% to €25,735, with the equivalent figure on “cattle other” and sheep farms respectively €37,119 – down 5% – and €35,924, up 10%.

Average debt on tillage farms declined year-on-year – down 15% to €58,521.

The majority of farm debt, some 75%, was classified as long-term – more than 10 years – in 2018, with 81% of average dairy farm debt categorised as such, as well as a similar proportion of debt on average cattle rearing farms.

Cattle other and sheep farms were gauged at 70% and 64%, respectively.

However, only 30% of average tillage farm debt was classified as long-term with another 33% short-term (including overdrafts) and the remaining 37% related to leasing or hired purchase.


Gross new investment on Irish farms increased by 9% last year, despite difficult conditions – totalling almost €947 million on aggregate nationally, according to the survey.

Investment on dairy farms accounted for more than half of total investment in 2018, the highest overall, at an average of €31,671 per farm.

This figure is up 19% on 2017, a year in which more than a doubling in investment occurred. Similarly, investment on tillage farms increased strongly in 2018, increasing by over 40% on average to €12,083.

Although lower in value terms, investment on the average “cattle other” farm increased significantly also, up 18% to €5,633.

Cattle rearing and sheep farms saw a reduction in investment; cattle rearing farms saw investment down 19% to €3,889, while sheep farm investment fell 26% to €4,652.