Farm business income measured across all farm types in Northern Ireland is expected to decrease from an average £51,043 in 2022/2023 to £27,345 in 2023/2024.

This is a decrease of £23,699, or 46% per farm, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said.

Farm business income is expected to increase (by varying amounts) for Cattle & Sheep (LFA), Cattle & Sheep (lowland) and pig farm types between 2022/23 and 2023/24. 

For these farms, the upturn in their incomes is attributable to higher beef and pig prices in the 2023/24 year. 

However, farm business incomes for cereals, dairy and mixed farm types are expected to fall by 81%, 70% and 33% respectively due to lower grain and milk prices in the 2023/24 year.  

Total income from farming

Provisional figures indicate that the total income from farming (TIFF) in Northern Ireland decreased by 44% (47.8% in real terms) in 2023.

The TIFF, which represents the return on own labour, management input and own capital invested for all those with an entrepreneurial involvement in farming, was £609 million in 2022 and dropped to £341 million in 2023.

Total gross output for agriculture in Northern Ireland was 7% lower at £2.87 billion in 2023. 

There was a 6% decrease in the value of output from the livestock sector, while field crops decreased by 21% and horticulture decreased by 27%.

These figures are for the calendar year and therefore they represent the outturn across two harvest years. 

Dairy, cattle and sheep

Dairying remains the largest contributor to the total value of gross output at £892million in 2023 – a decrease of 21% between 2022 and 2023.

The annual average farmgate milk price decreased by 21% to 35.1ppl while the volume of raw milk produced in Northern Ireland decreased by 0.2% to 2.5billion litres.

The output value of cattle was 6% lower at £568million in 2023. 

The total number of animals slaughtered decreased by 5.8% in 2023, whereas the average carcase weights for clean and cull animals were 1.3% and 2.3% lower respectively. 

These changes resulted in the volume of meat produced being 7.1% lower in 2023, DAERA said. 

The average producer price for finished clean cattle was £4.60/kg in 2023 while the average producer price for cull animals was £3.24/kg.

These prices were 10% and 3% higher than their respective averages for 2022. In addition to these changes, there was also a stock change of minus £48 million due to a reduction in the number of cattle on ground between 2022 and 2023. 

The value of output from sheep decreased by 0.5% to £109million in 2023.

The total number of sheep slaughtered increased by 4% in 2023 whereas the average carcass weight decreased by 2% to 22kg. 

Volume of sheep meat produced increased 2% in 2023. The average producer price increased by 3% to £5.50/kg. 

Increasing outputs

All intensive sectors recorded an increase in their output. The value of output in the poultry sector increased by 2% to £380 million in 2023 while the egg sector increased by 47% to £223 million.

The value of pig output also increased by 15% to £297million.

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The poultry sector recorded a 8% increase in its production volume for 2023, whereas the pigs and eggs sectors recorded a 4% and 0.3% decrease in their respective production volumes when compared with their previous year levels. 

Producer prices in the pigs and eggs sectors increased by 20% and 43% respectively, whereas, the producer price for poultry decreased by 3%.

The total output value for field crops decreased by 21% in 2023 to £86 million. This was due to decreases in both grain prices and yields in 2023, DAERA said.

The value of output for cereals decreased by 37% to £40 million whereas the value of output for potatoes increased by 15% to £31 million. Output values for field crops are across a calendar year and include production from two harvests. 

The value of output recorded in the horticulture sector was lower year on year for 2023, at £70million.

Mushrooms and vegetables are the main contributors to this sector in value terms, with a combined estimated output value of £46million.

Input costs

The total value of gross inputs decreased by 0.4% in 2023, to £2.17billion. 

Feedstuffs costs, which accounted for 57% of the total gross input estimate, increased by 5% to £1.24 billion in 2023.

There was a 3.3% increase in the volume of feedstuffs purchased and a 1.6% increase in the average price paid per tonne. 

The total cost of fertilisers in 2023 decreased by 43% with a 14% decrease in the volume purchased and a 33% decrease in the average price paid per tonne.

There was also a 36% fall in the value of total lime purchases, with the result that total expenditure on fertilisers and lime decreased by 42% to £112million.

Total machinery expenses decreased by 2% to £199million in 2023, mainly as a result of a 10% decrease in the cost of fuel and oils.