The average farm income on sheep farms in 2021 increased by 14% relative to 2020 and amounted to €20,451, figures from the Teagasc National Farm Survey for 2021 reveal.

The overall gross output on sheep farms increased by 16% to €61,205 – driven by a strong improvement in prices due to better market conditions and increased opportunities for Irish lamb exports.

There were 13,979 sheep farms represented in the survey.

Looking at the distribution of incomes on sheep farms, the proportion earning a family farm income (FFI) of less than €5,000 increased by 5% in 2021 to 26%.

16% reported a sheep farm income of between €5,000 and €10,000 in 2021, which represents a 7% decrease on the previous year.

And, almost one quarter reported a sheep farm income of between €5,000 and €10,000 in 2021, a 7% increase from 2020.

The proportion of farms earning on average between €10,000 and €20,000 rose by 3% to 25% – while those earning above €50,000 increased to 12%.

Distribution of Sheep FFI 2019 – 2021. Source: Teagasc

Direct payments declined marginally to €18,535, on average, on sheep farms in 2021.

This was mainly due to small reductions across Basic Payments, the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme and the Areas of Natural Constraint payment.

In the main, participation in the Sheep Welfare Scheme resulted in a payment of approximately €1,000 on sheep farms in 2021.

An increase in production costs was seen in 2021. Direct costs rose by 17% to a farm average of €21,288, while overhead costs increased by 18%, compared to 2020, and came to €19,466.

Concentrate feed costs increased by 17% to €7,691, while expenditure on bulky feed also increased to €1,632 from the 2020 figure of €1,022.

Sheep farm indicators 2021. Source Teagasc

Fertiliser expenditure also increased by 18% to €3,154, on average. Furthermore, contracting charges and veterinary and livestock costs rose by 4% and 9% to €2,535 and €3,597 respectively.

Like other farm systems, an increase in depreciation cost was also seen. Machinery depreciation rose by 28% on average. Although, machinery operating costs declined by 4%.

On a per-hectare basis, the average gross margin on sheep farms was €909. This included a basic payment of €257, on average.

In 2021, the average-sized sheep farm was 44ha, while the average flock size increased from 133 ewes in 2020 to 139 in 2021.

Check out this article on last year’s farm survey results for 2019 to compare against the findings of this year’s survey.