Dairy farmer incomes surged by 23% in 2021 to reach an average of €97,350, while earnings for tillage farmers rebounded strongly to hit €59,000 for the year.

Drystock farmers also enjoyed a successful 2021. Average earnings for suckler enterprises were almost 30% stronger than 2020, with sheep incomes improving by 14%.

These were the standout findings from Teagasc’s national farm survey (NFS) for 2021.

The results were correlated from around 800 farms, which are representative of approximately 85,000 farms in Ireland.

Higher commodity prices across most farm enterprises were the main driver of the increase in farm incomes in 2021, the Teagasc review concluded.

The NFS noted that cereal prices rose by over 30% in 2021 compared with 2020, while a 13% increase in average milk price was recorded.

Price increases

Lamb prices also increased by almost 30%. Cattle price increases were smaller, but significant, at 8% for young cattle and 12% for prime cattle.

However, the hike in farmgate prices was eroded somewhat by higher input costs, as fertiliser, fuel and electricity charges increased ahead of the average 6% inflation rate in 2021.

The scale of the income increases varied considerably across farm systems, with dairying and tillage recording the most pronounced improvements.

Tillage farms experienced particularly good production conditions in 2021

Despite dairy production costs rising by 11%, a further increase in milk volumes and significantly higher milk prices resulted in an average dairy farm income of €97,350 in 2021, an increase of €18,300 on the 2020 level.

Average dairy farmer incomes were even stronger for those units with debt. Returns for these farms almost reached €107,000 last year.

Costs rose by 34% in 2021 for tillage farmers due to higher fertiliser, feed and contracting charges, the NFS found.

But a 47% lift in cereal prices resulted in the average income on tillage farms increasing by €25,650 or 77%.

“This was because tillage farms experienced particularly good production conditions in 2021, which led to higher crop yields,” the Teagasc report explained.


Similarly, suckler farmer incomes rose by €2,500 to €10,927 in 2021, despite a 10% increase in overall costs.

In the ‘cattle other’ system, which comprises mainly of beef finishing farms but also includes farms selling store cattle, incomes rose by just 6% or almost €900. Average incomes last year were €16,400.

The average income on sheep farms reached almost €20,500 in 2021, an increase of 14%, or €2,600 relative to the 2020 level. This was primarily on the back of stronger lamb prices.