The Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) has shown that 43% of farms earn less than €10,000/year.

Figures were reflective of 2020 and representative of 93,000 farms across the country.

It also showed that just 5% of farms had an income of over €100,000/year.

There was a stark contrast between farm systems. For example, 61% of suckler farms earned less than €10,000/year, but just 5% of dairy farms earned less than €10,000/year.

This disparity continued on a higher scale, with just 0.57% of suckler farms on an income of between €70,000 and €100,000, in comparison with 21% of dairy farms.

Dairy incomes

Overall, dairy farm incomes increased from an average of €66,000 to €74,236.

Teagasc’s principal research officer Trevor Donnellan said this was due to an increase in milk price and a slight 4% increase in average milk output per farm.

Costs were still higher than other farm sectors, with average overhead costs coming to €58,853 and direct costs at €87,695 – these were largely unchanged from 2019.

Dairy farms made the most use of unpaid family labour and Teagasc economist Emma Dillon said unpaid labour was usually done by the spouse or farm successor, while Donnellan pointed out this could also be the farmer themselves.

Sucklers and other sectors

The average family farm income on suckler farms remained stable at €9,037, while on other cattle systems it was €14,813 – an increase of 8%.

Donnellan noted that the sheep sector had had a “very positive” year, with a 24% increase in income to €18,383.

Income on tillage farms was down by 1% to €32,525.

Two-thirds of farms have no debt, although the lion’s share of farm debt is carried by dairy farms.

Interestingly, gross investment on sheep farms rose from just €3,803 to €7,085 in 2020, with the bulk of investment going into machinery followed by buildings.

The additional investment could be on the back of a relatively good year for sheep prices.