Teagasc released its National Farm Survey for 2020, which outlines some of the sectorial figures for 2020.

According to the survey, there are 16,146 dairy farms, with an average herd size of 82 cows.

National Farm Survey

Looking at dairy farms in each region, the vast majority (73%) are located in the south, which would be considered a traditional dairy area. A further 15% are located in the north and west region.

With 12% in the east and midlands region, where notable dairy expansion has been occurring since the abolition of milk quotas in 2015.

In 2020, approximately 42% of dairy farms operated on between 50ha to 100ha, with a further 32% in the 30ha to 50ha bracket.

Smaller farms represented 16% of the dairy farm population, with the remaining 10% sized above 100ha.

Image source: Teagasc

Dairy farm incomes

Based on the report, the average farm income for a 60ha dairy farm increased by 13% to €74,236 or €1,237.27/ha.

19% of farmers reported an income of less than €30,000, while 18% reported income between €30,000 to €50,000.

This has been helped by a number of factors, which include good grass growing conditions, increased production, slight milk price improvement and a reduction in feed cost.

The lockdowns caused by Covid-19 meant that many farmers were concerned about a fall in farm gate prices.

But luckily it was short lived and prices returned to somewhat normal levels after a decrease during the initial lockdown.

This was aided by 2020 being noted as a good year for grass growth on farms, which always helps to reduce production costs.

The reduction in feed cost is due to concentrate feeding rates returning to a similar level to 2017.

With an average of 1,120kg/fed/cow in 2020, this represented a 3% reduction in concentrate expenditure compared to 2019 figure.

Farm debt

Based on the National Farm Survey report, dairy farm debt remained similar to the 2019 figure with an average of €112,476, excluding farms that had zero debt. The figure for 2019 was €112,377.

As the national herd has increased, dairy farmers have invested heavily into their farms to make them efficient as possible. The sector has also seen a large number of new entrants.

The east and midlands regions have experienced growth in their dairy sector since 2015. With on farm debt being more than twice as high in the east and midlands region compared to the south.

This figure is almost three times higher than on the average dairy farm in the north and west.

Image source: Teagasc

On average, the debt figure looks okay, but this is an average figure, with some farms having a small amount of debt while others still have a large amount.

Similar to the income figure, an average figure is only an average and does not give an understanding of what is happening on individual farms.