National Farm Survey: Indifferent 2017 for beef farms

Beef farmers got the short end of the stick economically in 2017 – compared to other farm enterprises – according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey, which was released earlier today.

The survey broke beef farming into two categories: ‘Cattle Rearing’; and ‘Cattle Other’.

Cattle Rearing

In 2017 there were approximately 19,691 cattle rearing farms, with an average income of €12,680.

Suckler cow production is the dominant enterprise on these farms. Gross output typically increased by 5% year-on-year, with prices for younger cattle improving as the year progressed.

Despite reduced input prices for fertiliser and feed in 2017, higher volumes, in addition to rising overhead costs, resulted in an increase in total production costs of 7%.

Individual cost items combined with other direct costs resulted in an 8% increase overall.

Likewise, overhead costs relating to machinery operation and electricity and fuel increased by 14% and 4% respectively.

In all, overhead costs on cattle rearing farms increased by 1% in 2017. The average gross margin on a per hectare basis was €803 in 2017. This included a basic payment of €257. The average farm size was 35ha.

The vast majority of farms were at the lower end in 2017, with over half of farms earning an income of less than €10,000.

A further 26% earned between €10,000 and €20,000, with the remaining 21% earning more than that. Only 2% of cattle rearing farms earned more than €50,000 in 2017, compared to 70% of dairy farms.

Cattle Other

There were approximately 27,286 ‘Cattle Other’ farms, with an average income of €16,651 in 2017, a 1% decrease on 2016, according to the Teagasc survey.

Cattle fattening is the dominant enterprise on these farms. In 2017 finished cattle prices increased only marginally (1%) due to volatility across categories, with higher prices for steers and young bulls partially offset by reduced heifer prices.

Overall, output value remained unchanged in 2017, with direct payments declining by 1%. Direct production costs increased by 3% on cattle other farms year-on-year, with expenditure on concentrates up 13%.

Fertiliser costs and costs relating to livestock/veterinary declined however, by 8% and 3% respectively.

Overhead costs declined only marginally (1%) over the period. Taking all cost components into consideration, an overall increase in total costs of 1% is reported.

The average gross margin per hectare on cattle other farms was €912 in 2017. This included a basic payment of €303/ha. The average farm size was 37ha, while the average number of livestock units came in at just under 50 units.

Similar to the cattle rearing system, 46% of cattle other farms reported an income of €10,000 or below in 2017.

A further 23% earned between €10,000 and €20,000, indicating that income on 69% of cattle other farms fell below €20,000.

A total of 41% of cattle other farm-holders also worked off-farm in 2017. The equivalent figure on cattle rearing and sheep farmers is about 33%.