Just 4% of Northern Ireland farmers are under the age of 35, according to the EU Farm Structures survey for Northern Ireland.

This compares to the Department of Agriculture’s figure that 6% of farmers in the Republic of Ireland are under 35.

In the EU-28, some 7.5% of farmers are under the age of 35.

The median age of Northern Ireland farmers (58 years) was one year older than in 2010, according to the survey.

Just 4% of Northern Ireland farmers were aged under 35 in 2013 which was down from the 5% of farmers under 35 in 2010.

The survey found that the ages of farmers differed for each business size; on very small farms, 36% were aged 65 or more, compared with 25% on small and 20% on medium or large farms.

Labour force

Some 51,174 persons contributed to the work on farms in the 12 months ending March 2013, the survey found.

The total labour input on farms in Northern Ireland equated to 27,464 annual work units (full-time job equivalents).

According to the Farm Structures survey, occupiers and their family members provided 90% of the labour input.

Business status

The majority of farms in Northern Ireland are family owned and managed; only 191 farm businesses out of the total of 24,503 were owned by an institution or limited liability company.

On 99% of farms, the principal occupier or a member of his or her family was the manager (the person most responsible for day-to-day management).

Only 1% of managers were neither the occupier nor a member of the occupier’s family.


Female workers accounted for 24% of the workforce and 17% of the labour input (Annual Work Units) on farms, the survey found.

Some 7% of farms were managed by females while actual farmers 95% are male and 5% are female, it found.

The 2013 survey indicated that 31% of farmers in Northern Ireland had no spouse, ranging from 33% for those with very small businesses to 18% of those with large businesses.

Under half (43%) of farmers’ spouses contributed to the work of the farms, it found.

Some 53% of Northern Ireland farmers worked 30 hours or more per week on farms (i.e. full-time) and the total annual work units equated to 27,464 full time jobs (27,328 in 2010).

Other gainful activities

The proportion of Northern Ireland farmers who had other work was 36%, (40% was recorded in 2010), the survey found.

For those Northern Ireland farmers under 65, the proportion that had other work was 48% in 2013 compared with 52% in 2010.

On 51% of all farms, and for 66% of those where the farmer was aged under 65, either the farmer or spouse or both had other work in 2013. (56% and 71% respectively in 2010).

On 72% of very small farms, with the farmer aged under 65, either the farmer or the farmer’s spouse had other gainful activity.

Farm diversification

Some 10% of farms had some diversification activity (as defined in the Structure Survey), including 4% of farms which undertook agricultural contracting.

Another 7% of Northern Ireland farms had diversification other than agricultural contracting or haulage.

Use of agricultural contractors

According to the survey, 89% of farms used agricultural contractors during the previous year, compared with 77% in 2010.

Some 71% of all farms used agricultural contractors for hay or silage making.

When it comes to tractors and machinery, 90% of farms owned at least one tractor and 31% of farms owned at least one quad (up from 17% in 2005).

Use of the internet

Looking at internet access in Northern Ireland, 60% of farms have access to the internet while 55% of farms have access to broadband.

Some 42% of Northern Irish farms use the internet for business purposes, the survey found.

Manure and slurry

Some 44% of farms stored solid manure on a solid base while 68% of farms used a below-ground slurry tank.

According to the survey, 37% of all land received slurry at some time during the year.

It found that 8% of all land received solid manure at some time in the year.

The Farm Structures Survey found that 91% of land that was used for arable purposes was ploughed using the inversion ploughing method.

Some 83% of managers had practical experience only, with 17% having attended a formal training course.

Renewable Energy Production

In Northern Ireland, 3% of farms produce renewable energy.

When it came to future planning 55% of farm businesses in the North have a plan for succession.