Average incomes on Irish farms grew by 6% in 2015.
This was the principal finding from an analysis of over 800 farm accounts carried out by Teagasc and launched today.
It is a substantially better turnout than had been forecast last Autumn, when a decline of up to 9% in incomes had been projected.
The average income was €26,526, which represents the return to family labour and capital and includes EU subsidies.
The average income on dairy farms was €63,020, while it was €33,700 on tillage farms. Incomes on cattle and sheep farms were much lower – from €13,000 to €16,000, depending on farming system.
The dairy farm income figure represents a decline of 4% on the figures for 2014 but was achieved despite a decline of 20% in milk prices.
Farmers produced 13% more milk in the first year after the end of quotas and fat and protein levels of that milk were also higher.
A favourable year for grass growth and low input prices also helped bring about a substantial improvement in productivity per cow.
Farmers who increased milk production by 20% or more, managed to achieve an increase in incomes. (80% of dairy farmers expanded their output, of which 12% expanded by more than 30%).
Cattle farmers benefited from higher prices (up 11% for store cattle, 13% for finished cattle) and also from cheaper feed.
Suckler cow farms and cattle fattening enterprises had increases in incomes of 34% and 29% compared with the previous year but these large increases still left incomes far behind those on dairy or tillage farms.
Farming continues to be dependent on EU subsidies. The average payment is €17,000, amounting to 64% of average farm incomes but almost the total income earned on cattle and sheep farms. Subsidies were a little lower in 2015 than in previous years.
Farmers continued to invest in their enterprises in 2015, with a total estimates investment of over €800 million, of which over €300 m was by dairy farmers. Much of this investment appears to have been funded from savings, as the overall level of debt on farms is declining.
Almost two thirds of farmers have no business related debt. On the remaining the average debt level is €60,607.
The report is available at. www.teagasc.ie/publications
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