The average income for farms rearing cattle last year stood at almost €11,000, which is a 30% increase on the 2020 figure, according to Teagasc.

However, the preliminary findings of the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2021 show that costs for these systems, which mainly consist of suckler beef production, increased by 10%.

For other cattle enterprises, comprising beef finishing and farms selling store cattle, the average income increased by 6% or €900 to €16,416 in 2021.

Teagasc report

The report shows that there were almost 17,300 farms rearing cattle last year, with an average family farm income of €10,927.

There was an 11% increase in the average suckler farm size in 2021 to 34ha, with total livestock units climbing to an average of 36.

Teagasc director, Prof. Frank O’ Mara launching the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2022 Image: John Ohle Photography

The average gross margin on a per-hectare basis on suckler farms in 2021 increased marginally to €814, which included an average basic payment of €242.

Teagasc said that 60% of enterprises earned less than €10,000 in 2021 and just 1% of cattle rearing farms earned over €50,000.

44% of farmers also reported working off-farm in 2021, according to the Teagasc survey.

Image Source: Teagasc

There was an 11% jump in the average amount of direct payments received on cattle-rearing farms in 2021, to €15,125.

Overall, the average gross margin on suckler farms rose 20% year-on-year.

Teagasc said that total production costs increased by 10% for the average cattle-rearing enterprise last year, driven by a 15% jump in overhead costs to an average of €16,348.

Direct costs were up by 5% on average including an 8% increase in the cost of concentrates, while spending on contractors was up 11% to €3,130, on average.

Fertiliser expenditure increased by 5%, with the average farm spending €2,198 in 2021.

A 40% rise in conacre rental costs to €1,273 on average, was also reported last year.

Other cattle farms

The survey shows there were just under 31,000 ‘cattle other farms’, which are dominated by cattle finishing systems, in 2021.

Teagasc said the average output value/farm increased by 3% due to improved prices for finished animals.

There was a drop in the average level of farm payments (€15,356) but income was bolstered by around €1,000 through participation in the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme – Sucklers (BEEP-S) and the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP).

Overhead costs increased by 5% on average compared to 2020, with expenditure on land improvement and machinery remaining relatively unchanged.

Image Source: Teagasc

The median value of concentrate use/livestock unit (LU) in the 0-1 LU stocking rate band was 363kg/LU.

For farms in the 1-1.5LU stocking rate band, it was slightly lower at 344kg/LU.

The average farm size in 2021 dropped by 8% to 35ha and total livestock units declined by 8% to 44.

Teagasc said that the average gross margin/hectare on ‘cattle other farms’ increased by 14% to €1,018, which includes an average basic payment of €288.

28% of farms had an income of €5,000 or less, 29% earned between €20,000 to €50,000 and 6% had an overcome over €50,000.

38% of farmers in these enterprises had an off-farm job.