Study of 1,000 farms finds 40% earned under €10,000 in 2014
Dairy farmer incomes at highest since Teagasc began National Farm Survey in 1972
Preliminary analysis of the Teagasc survey shows family farm income increased by 6 per cent in 2014, bringing the average farm income to €26,974. This does not include off-farm income, and the research found 51 per cent of farm households had an off-farm income. File photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Dairy farmer incomes were last year the highest since Teagasc began compiling its National Farm Survey in 1972, the farm research and education agency has found.
However, the annual study of 1,000 farms also found 40 per cent of farmers earned less than €10,000, including their EU farm payments, last year.
Preliminary analysis of the results shows family farm income increased by 6 per cent in 2014, bringing the average farm income to €26,974. This does not include off-farm income, and the research found 51 per cent of farm households had an off-farm income.
Dr Thia Hennessy, head of the Teagasc National Farm Survey, said farm incomes varied considerably last year, with dairy farms showing by far the highest income, at €68,877. This was a 9 per cent increase on the previous year.
“This is the highest dairy farm income on record since the survey began, so a very good year for dairy farming at the end of the quota period,” she said.
The EU milk quota regime ended on March 31st, leaving farmers free to produce as much milk as they wish.
However, dairy farmers have incurred a superlevy bill of €69 million for exceeding their quotas in the final year of the regime.
An estimated €15 million of this has already been withheld from milk cheques by co-ops in in anticipation of the bill.
Dr Hennessy noted an increasing number of farms were recording farm incomes of less than €10,000.
“Despite an increase in average farm income in 2014, we still have more farmers earning less than €10,000 than in the previous three years. And at the opposite end of the spectrum we see more farms moving into that greater-than-€50,000 income category.”
The average income of farmers rearing cattle was €10,271 last year, while farmers who fattened cattle for slaughter earned €13,834.
Farmers preparing cattle for slaughter were locked in dispute with meat processors last year over prices and this is reflected in these figures, which show a 12 per cent fall in income.
Tillage farms were the second most profitable after dairying, with an average income of €28,468, while the income of sheep farmers was almost half that, at €14,551.
Dr Hennessy said the very good weather conditions experienced last year meant production costs fell by 6 per cent, thus boosting farm incomes.
Her co-author Brian Moran noted a huge variation in farm income, depending on where farm families lived.
Farmers in Border regions had the lowest income per hectare, at an average of €370. “As you move south, into the strong farming areas in the southeast, you have an income per hectare of €770.”
Farmers invested more than €620 million in their farms last year, he noted.
Investment in dairy enterprises accounted for 63 per cent of all new investment. “The average investment made by a dairy farmer last year was €22,000 - up 16 per cent on the previous year.”