There could be “some light on the horizon” for beef farmers in Ireland if consumers in China switch from a pork-based diet to one based on beef, a Teagasc economist has suggested.

Dr. Emma Dillon, from the Agricultural Economics and Farm Surveys Department at Teagasc, was speaking to AgriLand at the launch last week, Thursday, May 30, of the National Farm Survey, which showed that the average family farm income in 2018 for cattle rearing enterprises was €8,313.

This equated to a decrease of 22% compared with the 2017 figure – a drop that Dr. Dillon described as “stark”.

On the drystock farms, I suppose the cattle rearing figure is quite stark, with an average income of about €8,300, with the average farmer losing about €4,500 based on the direct payments that they have.

“In terms of the future around prices, with the issue that’s in China with the African swine fever, hopefully we will see some substitution from pork to beef there, and perhaps that is some light on the horizon for those types of farmers,” she suggested.


In terms of dairy enterprises, the outlook for 2019 is more positive compared to 2018, according to Dr. Dillon.

The Teagasc survey showed that dairy farmers faced the largest cuts in income, down 31% from the 2017 figure.

“We’ve seen huge volatility in the last number of years on dairy farms, either price or weather induced, and maybe a lot of fluctuations even since the milk quota abolition,” explained Dr. Dillon.

But, I suppose 2019 so far has looked quite positive. Obviously we haven’t quite got the weather challenges we had last year, and hopefully we will see that costs will be lower on the average dairy farm [in 2019].

While she highlighted that the global dairy outlook is “positive” for farmers, she noted there are potential stumbling blocks to be wary of.

“Globally, supply has been down in other countries, which has been a positive, and we’d hope that the milk price would hold up.

“The GDT [Global Dairy Trade] auction most recently had a negative result, and previous to that there were 10 consecutive positive auctions. Potentially, there might be some room for concern around that,” she stipulated.

Dr. Dillon also confirmed that Teagasc will conduct a mid-year review in the middle of the summer, which will provide more information on sector performances and farmer incomes.