More than one in every four of the country’s 48,000 small farmers expect to have to retire and/or lease out their farm over the next five years, the results of Teagasc’s Small Farm Survey show.

At an average farm size of 13ha, this finding suggests that around 170,000ha or 421,000ac of new land could enter the leasing market in the coming years. This would equate to one in every 25ac of farmland in the country becoming available to lease before 2030.

Some 35% expect to remain farming as they are now, 11% intend on changing their system and another 10% reported to be planning on scaling up.

Only 1% of small farmers who responded to Teagasc’s survey expect to sell their farm in the next five years.

Over one in six of these small farmers stated that they would consider a farm retirement scheme, with this figure being 13% for those who would consider growing fodder for other farmers or planting forestry.

Of the small farmers who plan on staying farming, more than half reported to be interested in converting to organics and two-fifths reported to be interested in getting more involved in agri-environmental schemes.

Some 24% of the farms defined as small in output terms already lease land and Teagasc’s analysis found that these farms had an average family farm income €1,800 higher than those who farmed all of their land.

However, the area of land farmed by small farmers who lease land is generally greater than those who do not.

The average farm size of small drystock farmers who farmed all of their land in 2022 is 13ha, but this average farm size increases to 22ha among those who already lease some land.