Suckler farming remains the enterprise most dependent on CAP direct payments, the Teagasc national farm survey (NFS) confirms.

The NFS results show that direct payments make up 138% of family farm income on suckler holdings.

This means that the majority of suckler holdings are actually loss-making operations, with farmers using the direct payments they receive to subsidise their farm enterprise.

Suckler farms have the highest support payments at €452/ha on average. Beef finishers have the next highest at €436/ha, with sheep farms at €422/ha.

Tillage farms receive €402/ha on average in direct payments, while dairy farms get €331/ha on average.

However, direct payments account for just 22% of total earnings on dairy farms.

This is an indication of the scale and commercial viability of dairy farms generally when compared to most drystock operations. Despite the pronounced lift in earnings on tillage farms in 2021 – up 77% compared to 2020 – direct payments still accounted for 47% of family farm income in the sector.

The dependence on direct payments was significantly greater for cattle finishers and sheep farmers.

Direct payments accounted for 93% of earnings for beef finishers, and 91% of sheep farmer incomes.