Dairy farm incomes will be 10 to 15 times greater than those earned by cattle and sheep farmers this year, says the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) following its review of Teagasc’s update to its Situation and Outlook for Irish Agriculture 2022.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said it looks to him that the Teagasc report launched on Wednesday is “glossing over this likelihood” and called on the body to clarify its forecasts for net margins on beef, suckler and sheep farms for 2022.

Teagasc predicts that the average income on suckler farms will fall by 25% in 2022 as a result of the spike in input costs, while other beef enterprises are forecast to experience income reductions of around 16%. Sheep farmers are also forecast to see their incomes fall by around 20%.

Meanwhile, the report contends that the continued surge in global dairy commodity markets will largely insulate milk producers from any major income losses.

Kelleher said: “The reality is that the Government is not facing up to the fact that the beef, suckler, and sheep sectors are much more vulnerable than the dairying sector. The dairying sector is being supported in every conceivable way by dairy processors, but the same is not true in the meat sectors.

“We see that the dairy sector is looking at a milk price double what it was six years ago, and dairy farmers are entitled to that. But the beef and sheep sectors are not getting that level of increase and ICSA has made it clear that beef price needs to be at least €6/kg.”

Precise data

While the ICSA president acknowledged that the Teagasc document is an “attempt to understand what the consequences of war in Ukraine are in terms of [farm] costs” he contended that there is much more precise data given in relation to pigs and dairying than there is for low-income sectors.

He said: “This is not good enough and it is vital that the Government gets a full picture of how input cost escalation is not evenly affecting all farm sectors.”

The Cork farmer said the report suggests that the net margin will be down by 25% on sucklers and 16% on beef farms, whereas it suggests that sheep farmers will have a net margin of €110/ha.

However, he said: “We would really need to see what the actual per hectare net margin for beef and sucklers is.”

Completely failed

If such a large gap in incomes between dairy and beef and sheep farmers is to be the case in 2022, Kelleher said: “Then the entire CAP strategy of the Government will turn out to be a farce, as it has completely failed to adequately support lower income and lower intensity farm systems.

“It also will require a radically different approach to the current feed and fodder crisis. The Government will have to face up to the disastrous implications for the wider community of farmers in the cattle and sheep sectors in a much more proactive way and with a much more ambitious financial support package.”

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Teagasc warns of sharp fall in family farm incomes this year