Vulnerable farmers on the increase

Anne Mitchell
Anne Mitchell

FOUR out of every 10 farmers involved in cattle and sheep enterprises have been described as being in the ‘vulnerable’ category, the latest Teagasc Sustainability report has revealed.

And that figure could be far higher for smaller West of Ireland farmsteads who didn’t form part of this latest Teagasc study – they are to be surveyed through the course of 2020.

Teagasc categorised ‘vulnerable’ farmers as those with non-viable farming enterprises who didn’t have an off-farm income: in the lower earning bottom third of cattle farmers, 54% were in the ‘at-risk’ category. Almost one in four (23%) of cattle farmers were at risk of isolation [they lived alone] while almost one in three (32%) had a high-age profile.

Cattle farmers on average worked 29 hours per week on their enterprise while 40% of them had an off-farm job to supplement their income.

That picture was almost similar to the plight of sheep farmers, with 54% of the bottom third of earners in this category classed as vulnerable. One out of every three sheep farmers had off-farm jobs – on average they worked 31.6 hours on their enterprise every week.

As might be expected, dairying offers the best chances of viability as a farm enterprise. Only 8% (less than one in 12) were considered as being vulnerable but they had the longest working week – 45 hours on average.

Over three out of four dairy farmers (76%) had some formal training in education – the corresponding figure for cattle was 38% and 42% for sheep farmers. Only 12% (One in 8) of dairy farmers had a high age profile.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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