Sheep farmer incomes take a hit of 21% in 2018

The average sheep farmer income took a hit of 21% last year as a result of the extreme weather conditions experienced, according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2018.

Teagasc also confirmed that total costs on sheep farms jumped up by 8% when compared to 2017 figures.

The results were confirmed at the launch of the National Farm Survey which took place in the Davenport Hotel, Dublin, today, Thursday, May 30.

Despite a slight improvement in prices early in the year, overall gross output on the average sheep farm declined marginally to €49,481, according to the survey.

Direct payments were up slightly year-on-year to almost €19,000 on average. This was mainly due to increased payments under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme – up 10% – and to a lesser extent GLAS, up 3%.

The Sheep Welfare Scheme gave farmers an average payment of €1,000 to participants in 2018.

In line with most other systems, the main factor in reduced sheep farm income in 2018 boiled down to increased production costs.

Direct costs increased by 13% on average, according to Teagasc, with purchased concentrate costs increasing by almost one-third to close to €8,500 – the largest increase across drystock systems and more than twice that of their cattle rearing counterparts.

The fact that lambing season coincided with most of the difficult weather was a real issue in terms of increased feeding costs on sheep farms.

Fertiliser expenditure also increased, up 11% to almost €3,000 on average. As with the other systems, a strong increase in fodder making related costs is evident, with spending on contracting charges up 22% on average to €2,406.

Overhead costs increased slightly to €16,844 in 2018, with some increases in energy and fuel and depreciation in particular.

On a per-hectare basis, the average gross margin on sheep farms was €625 in 2018. This included a basic payment of €235. The average-sized sheep farm was 49ha, with a flock size of 129 ewes.