Overall milk production in Ireland rose by 5.6% last year, with increases particularly strong over the first half of the year, according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2021 published today (Tuesday, June 14).

On a per-hectare basis, average milk production increased year-on-year to 12,087L, with milk yield/cow rising to 5,744L on average in 2021.

Image source: Teagasc National Farm Survey

The National Farm Survey also shows that gross output/ha increased significantly in 2021 to €4,954 on average. However, the increase in costs resulted in an average gross margin/ha of €3,160.

The dairy stocking rate (livestock units/ha) increased to 2.09 last year, with a 2% increase in the average herd size, reaching 91 cows.

Last year, approximately 44% of dairy farms were part of the 50-100ha size category. A total of 29% of dairy farms ranged between 30-50ha, while 13% were smaller than 30ha and 14% were bigger than 100ha.

Input costs

Higher prices for feed, fertiliser and fuel (+ 27% to €4,217), in particular, led to an 8% increase in direct costs on the average dairy farm, according to Teagasc.

Spending on fertiliser was up by 5% reaching €14,761 on average in 2021, as survey data confirms relatively high levels of fertiliser in stock on farms at the end of 2020.

On an average dairy farm, with a herd size of 91 cows, purchased concentrate expenditure reached €45,149 last year, up 15% on 2020 levels.

Feed volumes averaged 1,079kg/dairy cow, however, this may differ significantly due to location, land type and stocking rate. Expenditure on purchased bulky feed fell by 2%, to €4,567, on average last year.

Contracting costs rose by 2% on average to €13,128, with other livestock and veterinary costs also up by 9% to €14,108 for the average dairy farm.

Image source: Teagasc National Farm Survey


Reasonable growing conditions, increased milk production and a sharp rise in the price of milk have driven a 23% increase in the average family farm income of €97,350 last year.

A total of 61% of dairy farms reported an income above €70,000, out of which 39% earned more than €100,000. This represents an 11% increase in top earners compared to the previous year.

On the other end, 13% of dairy farms reported an average income of less than €30,000; 16% earned between €30,000 and €50,000; and 11% between €50,000 and €70,000 in 2021.

Figures by region

On a per-hectare basis, in 2021, the average dairy family farm income was highest in the south at €1,594, while figures for the east and the midlands, and north and west regions were €1,392 and €1,448 respectively.

As of last year, 72% of dairy farms were located in the south of Ireland, “the traditional dairy area”, with the remainder evenly spread in the north and west, and the east and the midlands, Teagasc said.

The survey shows that both hired labour costs and farm-related debt are substantially higher in the east and the midlands compared to the other regions.

Concentrate feed use was 1,416kg/cow on average in the north and west in 2021, compared to 1,238kg/cow and 1,079kg/cow in the east and the midlands, and the south respectively.