• Developing farm-level sustainability indicators for Ireland using the Teagasc National Farm Survey

      Ryan, Mary; Hennessy, Thia; Buckley, Cathal; Dillon, Emma; Donnellan, Trevor; Hanrahan, Kevin; Moran, Brian (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2016-12-30)
      In the context of an expanding, export-dependent agri-food sector, indicators of sustainable development and intensification are necessary to measure, assess and verify the comparative advantage afforded by Ireland’s natural pastoral-based food production systems. Such indicators are also necessary to ensure that we produce more food with less adverse impacts on the Irish environment, climate and society. This article outlines the development of farm-level indicators that refect the multifaceted nature of sustainability, which is encompassed in economic, environmental and social indicators. The role of innovation in farm sustainability was also examined. A comparison of indicators across Irish farm systems showed that dairy farms, followed by tillage farms, tended to be the most economically and socially sustainable farm systems. In relation to greenhouse gas emissions in particular, the top-performing dairy farms, in an economic sense, also tended to be the best-performing farms from an environmental sustainability perspective. This trend was also evident in relation to the adoption of innovative practices on farm, which was found to be strongly correlated with economic performance.
    • Developing the EU Farm Accountancy Data Network to derive indicators around the sustainable use of nitrogen and phosphorus at farm level.

      Buckley, Cathal; Wall, David; Moran, Brian; Murphy, Paul N. C.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Springer, 2015-07)
      This study uses a national farm survey which is part of the European Union (EU) Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) to develop environmental sustainability indicators in the use of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) across a range of farm systems in the Republic of Ireland. Farm level micro data were used to calculate all inputs and outputs of N and P that cross the farm gate and to derive balances (kg ha-1) and overall use efficiencies across 827 farms in 2012. The sample is populated weighted to represents 71,480 farms nationally. Results indicated an average N balance of 71.0 kg ha-1 and use efficiency of 36.7% across the nationally representative sample. Nitrogen balances were between two and four times higher across specialist dairy farms compared to livestock rearing and specialist tillage systems. Nitrogen use efficiency was generally lowest across milk producing systems compared to livestock rearing and tillage systems. Phosphorus balance and use efficiency averaged 4.7 kg ha-1 and 79.6% respectively across the sample. Specialist tillage and dairying farms had higher average P balances compared to other livestock based systems. The approach developed in this analysis will form the benchmark for temporal analysis across these indicators for future nutrient balance and efficiency trends and could assist other members of the EU FADN to develop similar nationally representative indicators.
    • Factors associated with profitability in pasture-based systems of milk production

      Hanrahan, Liam; McHugh, Noirin; Hennessy, Thia; Moran, Brian; Kearney, R.; Wallace, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence (Elsevier, 2018-03-07)
      The global dairy industry needs to reappraise the systems of milk production that are operated at farm level with specific focus on enhancing technical efficiency and competitiveness of the sector. The objective of this study was to quantify the factors associated with costs of production, profitability, and pasture use, and the effects of pasture use on financial performance of dairy farms using an internationally recognized representative database over an 8-yr period (2008 to 2015) on pasture-based systems. To examine the associated effects of several farm system and management variables on specific performance measures, a series of multiple regression models were developed. Factors evaluated included pasture use [kg of dry matter/ha and stocking rate (livestock units/ha)], grazing season length, breeding season length, milk recording, herd size, dairy farm size (ha), farmer age, discussion group membership, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, fat %, kg of milk fat and protein per cow, kg of milk fat and protein per hectare, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated costs of production per hectare differed by year, geographical location, soil type, level of pasture use, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, breeding season length, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings per cow. The results of the analysis revealed that farm net profit per hectare was associated with pasture use per hectare, year, location, soil type, grazing season length, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, and capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow. Pasture use per hectare was associated with year, location, soil type, stocking rate, dairy farm size, fat %, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, farmer age, capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow, breeding season length, and discussion group membership. On average, over the 8-yr period, each additional tonne of pasture dry matter used increased gross profit by €278 and net profit by €173 on dairy farms. Conversely, a 10% increase in the proportion of purchased feed in the diet resulted in a reduction in net profit per hectare by €97 and net profit by €207 per tonne of fat and protein. Results from this study, albeit in a quota limited environment, have demonstrated that the profitability of pasture-based dairy systems is significantly associated with the proportion of pasture used at the farm level, being cognizant of the levels of purchased feed.
    • Phosphorus management on Irish dairy farms post controls introduced under the EU Nitrates Directive

      Buckley, Cathal; Wall, David; Moran, Brian; O'Neill, Stephen; Murphy, Paul N. C.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Elsevier, 08/11/2015)
      The Republic of Ireland was one of a minority of EU member states to include direct controls on chemical phosphorus (P) fertilisers in its EU Nitrates Directive National Action Plan, first introduced in 2006. This study estimates farm gate phosphorus balances and use efficiencies across 150 specialist dairy farms over the seven year period since these controls were introduced (2006–2012) using nationally representative data. Results indicate that P balances declined by 50% over the study period from 11.9 in 2006 to 6.0 kg ha− 1 in 2012. This decline was driven by a reduction in chemical fertiliser imports of 6.5 kg ha− 1. This is equivalent to a reduction of 281 kg of P and represents a cost saving of €812 per annum across the average farm. Phosphorus use efficiency also improved over the period from 60% in 2006 to 78% in 2012, peaking in 2011 at 88.3%. This was achieved while increasing milk solids output per hectare and per cow. Results of a random effects panel data model indicated that P balance and use efficiency are significantly influenced by factors such as fertiliser prices, stocking rates, land use potential, use of milk recording technology, contact with extension services and rainfall patterns.
    • The Sustainable Intensification of the Irish Dairy Sector

      Dillon, Emma Jane; Hennessy, Thia; Buckley, Cathal; Donnellan, Trevor; Hanrahan, Kevin; Moran, Brian; Ryan, Mary (Annual Conference of the Agricultural Economics Society, 2014)
      The concept of sustainability is one of the forefront issues in global agricultural production at present, given mounting pressure to increase food production in both a socially responsible and environmentally friendly way. From an Irish perspective the sustainable intensification of agriculture is of particular relevance given ambitious targets to increase milk production by 50 percent by 2020, in the context of European milk quota removal. Alongside this, environmental targets may be specified, meaning that expansion would have to be achieved in a sustainable way. To evaluate dairy farm-level sustainability a series of indicators are developed here using Teagasc National Farm Survey FADN (Farm Accountancy Data Network) data for Ireland from 2012. Three dimensions, reflecting the multifaceted nature of sustainability (economic, environmental and social) are considered. Given the environmental challenges inherent in the sustainable intensification of agriculture, it is encouraging to observe that the more intensive, top performing farms (in an economic sense) emit relatively less greenhouse gases when compared to their less intensive counterparts. Conversely, the better performing farms in economic terms tend to have higher nitrogen surplus per hectare on average. This is consistent with their higher rates of production intensity but poses a challenge in terms of sustainable expansion. That said this analysis demonstrates that the nitrogen use efficiency of milk production is positively correlated with economic performance, with more intensive farms producing relatively more milk per kg of nitrogen surplus. From a social perspective demography also tends to be correlated with economic performance. These indicators allow for the continued assessment of the sustainability status of Irish farming.
    • Teagasc National Farm Survey 2016 Estimates

      Dillon, Emma; Moran, Brian; Donnellan, Trevor (Teagasc, 2017-07-26)
      Background Notes: The National Farm Survey (NFS) has been conducted by Teagasc on an annual basis since 1972. The survey is operated as part of the Farm Accountancy Data Network of the EU and fulfils Ireland’s statutory obligation to provide data on farm output, costs and income to the European Commission. A random, nationally representative sample is selected annually in conjunction with the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Each farm is assigned a weighting factor so that the results of the survey are representative of the national population of farms. These preliminary estimates are based on a sub sample of 805 farms which represents 83,377 farms nationally. Farms are assigned to six farm systems on the basis of farm gross output, as calculated on a standard output basis. Standard output measures are applied to each animal and crop output on the farm and only farms with a standard output of €8,000 or more, the equivalent of 6 dairy cows, 6 hectares of wheat or 14 suckler cows, are included in the sample. Farms are then classified as one of the six farm systems on the basis of the main outputs of the farm. Farms falling into the Pigs and Poultry System are not included in the survey, due to the inability to obtain a representative sample of these systems. Due to the small number of farms falling into the Mixed Livestock system these farms are not reported here.
    • Teagasc National Farm Survey Preliminary Estimates 2016

      Dillon, Emma; Moran, Brian (Teagasc, 2017-05-31)
      This presentation provides an overview of the preliminary results of the National Farm Survey for 2016