Farmers with formal agricultural education tend to have larger farms and higher gross margins, than those with no formal agricultural education, a new report by Teagasc shows.

Furthermore, farmers in counties other than Louth, Leitrim, Sligo, Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan are more likely to attend college, the report found.

‘The Economic Returns to Formal Agricultural Education’ also shows that farm scale factors (total livestock units, forage area, size of farm) all impact positively on education attendance as do higher land values.

It also shows that farmers with good or medium quality soils are less likely to attend agricultural college.

Between 2001 and 2011, the overall proportion of the farming population having some formal agricultural education increased from 24% of the total to 44%, an increase of 83%. 

The report also shows that, in 2010 for dairy (70%), tillage (59%) and mixed livestock (52%) systems, the proportion of farmers with agricultural
training is above the average (39%). In contrast, for the cattle rearing (28%) and cattle other systems (25%) the proportion of farmers with an agricultural education is below the average.

Family farm income is higher where the farmer has undertaken any type of formal agricultural education compared to not having undertaken any. Family farm income is highest where the farmer has either gone to agricultural college or has an agricultural certificate and there is relatively little difference in average family farm income between those households with these two types of education.

There is a positive and significant economic return to formal agricultural education for Irish farmers and Irish society according to Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc.

Speaking at the launch of the report, he said that in a rapidly changing technological and economic environment, agricultural education is most important.

Professor Boyle said that the study confirms a positive return to agricultural education both in terms of the internal rate of return from a human capital perspective and also the benefits from agricultural education to farm level yields, intensity, and income.

The study was based on Teagasc National Farm Survey data on 1,100 farms for the period 2000 to 2011.