The figures show us what dairy farmers already knew – that 2020 was a decent year for farming.

The key ingredients were all present: good weather, low input prices, a low requirement for inputs and a stable milk price - up 2% from the year previous.

While the standout figure of €74,236 of family farm income on dairy farms seems very high in comparison to other sectors, it needs to be put in context.

It is before own or family labour is paid, before capital repayments are made on loans and before any tax is paid.

Depending on individual circumstances, that average family farm income could disappear very quickly after all of the above, plus drawings, are factored in.


The National Farm Survey data shows tillage incomes to be down by 1% for 2020 and that hardly comes as a surprise.

The area of winter crops was well down due to poor planting conditions. Some crops had to be resown and there were more spring crops on land that was less suited.

Many premium crops did not make the grade and there were many disappointing yields. Also, storms caused significant losses, especially in the south where crop potential was better.

On the positive side, grain prices were up slightly and some costs were down on the previous year. The average tillage income was found to be €32,525, down slightly on 2019.

Average gross output decreased by 4%, while average costs were down 6% in 2020.


The family farm income (FFI) for beef farmers in 2020 will not come as a surprise to many and while income increased slightly for cattle other farms, overall FFI remains poor. While average input costs were slightly down on previous years, a difficult year in terms of beef price meant little change overall compared to the previous year.

Once again, the survey highlights the huge reliance the sector has on direct payments, which accounted for 157% and 115% of FFI on suckler and finishing farms, respectively.

Compare this to dairy at just 27% and it shows the vast difference between the two sectors. Schemes such as BDGP, BEEP-S and the Beef Finisher Payment play a vital role in helping maintain farm incomes albeit at a low level.

With the average beef farmer age now above 60 years, the sector faces huge challenges in attracting the next generation of beef farmers at current income levels.