The number of farms in Ireland fell by 4,823 in the 10 years from 2010 to 2020 to 135,037, the census of agriculture for 2020 has found. The census is taken every 10 years by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The average farm size has marginally increased by 0.7ha to 33.4ha.
The census reveals that more than one in every five (20.8%) farms was less than 10ha in size.
Of the 135,037 farms, 42% were in the northern and western region with an average farm size of 25.8ha, 40% were in the southern region with an average farm size of 38.8ha and 18% were in the eastern and midland region with an average of 39.4ha.
Age profile and gender
In 33% of farms, the farmer was aged 65 or older in 2020 and the census recorded that there were 7,496 more farm holders aged 65 or older than in 2010.
In 7% of farms, the farmer was aged under 35 in 2020 and there were 655 more farmers aged under 35 last year than in 2010.
In terms of gender, the share of female farmers has increased by 1% since 2010, with 18,101 (or 13.4%) female farmers in 2020.
Beef farming is the most common type of farming in Ireland, with the census finding that there were 74,159 beef farms in Ireland in 2020.
The average farm size in the sector was 21ha and almost half of these farms (46%) were in the northern and western region.
The average age of beef farmers was 58.
There was 17,435 specialist sheep farms in 2020, with 64.2% of these located in the northern and western region.
The farm size of these sheep farms was around 17ha and the average age of a sheep farmer was 56.
There were 15,319 dairy farms in 2020 and the CSO said these farms were “typically large” with a median size of 55ha (the midpoint size of all farm sizes).
Seven out of every 10 dairy farms were in the southern region.
The average age of a dairy farmer in 2020 was 52, the youngest of all systems.
Over 95% of the country’s 4,567 tillage farms in 2020 were in the southern, eastern and midland regions.
The CSO said that they were typically “larger farms” and had a median size of 42ha (the midpoint size of all farm sizes).
The age of farmers on tillage farms was similar to that of all farms in the State at 57.
The census found that there were 8,508 mixed grazing livestock, 1,759 mixed crops and livestock, 11,516 mixed field crops and 1,774 other farms in 2020.
Farms classified as mixed field crops are typically the smallest in Ireland, around 9ha in size, and have the oldest farm holders in the State with an average age of 60.
Land area and livestock
Total agricultural area in 2020 was 4.509m hectares. Of this figure, 4.15m hectares were in grassland, 265,592ha were in cereals and 92,298ha were in other crops, fruit and horticulture.
On livestock numbers, there were 16.5m head of poultry in Ireland last year, 1.6m pigs, 5.5m sheep and 7.3m head of cattle.
Commenting on the results, statistician Cathal Doherty said the census of agriculture provides a snapshot of the agricultural activity on Irish farms in 2020.
“This census of farming is taken every 10 years and it includes statistics on farm structure, farmer demographics, livestock and land utilisation on farms.”