Newly-published data from Teagasc shows that only 18% of cattle farms were viable as of 2019.

Earlier today (Tuesday, November 3), Teagasc released its National Farm Survey Sustainability Report for 2019.

This is the second consecutive year that this figure has been as low, having been the same in 2018. It is the lowest level of farm viability among cattle enterprises (including sucklers and finishing) since 2014.

The gross average margin for cattle farms in 2019 was €497/ha, an increase on €483/ha in 2018. This compares to €1,793/ha for dairy farms last year, an increase from €1,728/ha in 2018.

All this means that, among cattle farms, 41% of households were considered vulnerable as of last year. This figure takes into account whether any non-farming income is coming into the household.

By comparison, only 12% of dairy farming households were considered vulnerable as of 2019, while 74% of dairy farms were considered viable last year.

The average value of output per labour unit on cattle farms was €13,688 last year, while the corresponding figure for dairy was €50,683. Both these figures are increases on the 2018 figures, of around €400 and €800 respectively.

39% of cattle farmers were considered to be in a high-age profile (compared to 15% of dairy farmers), while 22% of cattle farmers were considered to be farming in an isolated area (compared to 6% of dairy farmers).

Environmental sustainability

As well as looking at economic sustainability, the report also examined environmental sustainability.

The dairy sector produced an average of 8.7t of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) per ha in 2019, a very slight increase on the 2018 figure.

By comparison, cattle farms emitted less than half that figure, 4.2t CO2 eq/ha, a slight decrease on the 2018 figure.

Dairy farming also produced 0.73kg CO2 eq per kilogram of fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM) in 2019, which is unchanged from 2018.

For cattle farming, an average of 11.7kg CO2 eq per kilogram of liveweight was produced, a slight decrease from 12.1kg in 2018.

Due to the higher productivity of dairy enterprises, these farms produced about half as much CO2 eq per euro of output as cattle farms did – 2.6kg CO2 eq per euro of output, compared to 5.1kg CO2 eq per euro for cattle farms.

Looking at ammonia, dairy farms emitted 49kg/ha in 2019 (the same as in 2018), while cattle farms emitted 22kg/ha (a slight decrease from 2018).

Finally, the average nitrogen (N) balance for dairy farms in 2019 was recorded as 179kg/ha (a notable decrease from 201kg/ha in 2018), while the average N balance for cattle farms last year was 65kg/ha (also a decrease from the 2018 figure of 71kg/ha).