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Introduction and Overview of Results

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The Census of Agriculture (CoA) is a census of all agricultural holdings that takes place every ten years. It forms part of an EU-wide programme of agricultural censuses carried out in 2020 under EU Regulation 2018/1091 on integrated farm statistics.

This report 'Census of Agriculture 2020 - Preliminary Results' outlines the key preliminary statistics on the structure of Irish farms in 2020, focusing also on the demographic profile of farm holders, livestock and land utilisation.

Each chapter in this report begins with a historical comparison across the 2020 CoA and the previous three CoAs (1991, 2000 and 2010). Two important agricultural classifications (farm size and farm type) and region, outlined below, are used throughout the chapters of this report.

Preliminary CoA data can be accessed using the CSO's main data dissemination service, PxStat.

Farm size

In this report, each farm is classified into a hectare size band using the Agricultural Area Utilised (AAU) of a farm. There are six size bands; < 10 hectares, 10 < 20 hectares, 20 < 30 hectares, 30 < 50 hectares, 50 < 100 hectares and 100 or more hectares.

Farm type

Farm type in this report is defined using a detailed EU farm typology framework, farms are classified as one of eight farm systems that represent the primary areas of Irish farming. The eight systems are; Specialist Tillage, Specialist Dairying, Specialist Beef Production, Specialist Sheep, Mixed Grazing Livestock, Mixed Crops and Livestock, Mixed Field Crops and Other.


Region in this report is defined using the EU Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS). Data is presented at the level of NUTS 2, NUTS 3 or county for geographical comparisons throughout the report where appropriate.

For more information on the AAU, farm size, farm type or region, see the background notes and definitions.


The CSO would like to acknowledge and thank the many farmers who completed their 2020 CoA questionnaires. Without this cooperation, this publication would not be available. The CSO also wishes to acknowledge the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; data provided by the Department to the CSO feeds directly into many of these outputs.

Under the Statistics Act, 1993 all the information collected by the CSO for the CoA, from farms and from administrative sources is strictly confidential and is used for statistical purposes only.

Note on COVID-19 pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data collection for the 2020 Census of Agriculture was postponed from June 2020 to September 2020. This postponement has not affected the comparability of the 2020 census data with past censuses. Due to the pandemic, data on animal housing and manure management, and the farm labour force was collected in late 2020, and early 2021 via sample survey.

A final report on the results of the 2020 CoA will be published in 2022, this final report will provide further breakdowns, more detailed regional information, data on animal housing and manure management, and data on the farm labour force.

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X-axis labelNumber of Farms ('000)Average Agricultural Area Utilised (ha)
  • In 2020, there were 135,037 farms in Ireland, compared with 139,860 in 2010, the number of farms decreased by approximately 5,000 or 3.4% in the decade between 2010 and 2020.
  • The average AAU in 2020 was 33.4 hectares which has increased slightly, by approximately two thirds of a hectare or 2.2% since 2010.
  • There had been a steady decease in farm numbers in the previous 20 years and this was matched with a steady increase in average AAU.
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X-axis labelNumber of Farms ('000)Average Agricultural Area Utilised (ha)
Mid-East & Dublin11.843
  • Just above 26,500 farms (19.7%) and approximately 31,000 farms (22.8%) were in the Border and West regions. There were over 19,000 farms in the Mid-West (14.3%), over 12,000 farms in the South-East (9.1%) and just below 22,000 farms in the South-West (16.2%) regions. The Mid-East and Dublin region had below 12,000 farms, this was the fewest in the state (8.8%) and there were just below 12,500 farms in the Midlands (9.2%) region. 
  • Farms were typically smaller in the West and Border regions, they had an average AAU of 25.5 hectares and 26.2 hectares respectively. This was approximately 10 hectares smaller than any other region.
  • Farms in the Mid-East and Dublin and South-East regions were typically the largest in the state, they had average AAU of 43.0 hectares and 43.9 hectares respectively.
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  • Specialist Beef Production was the most common farm type, it accounted for over half of all farms in 2020 (74,159).
  • Specialist Sheep and Specialist Dairying were the next most common farm types with 17,435 Specialist Sheep farms and 15,319 Specialist Dairying farms in 2020.
X-axis label2020
Specialist Tillage3.4
Specialist Beef
Mixed Crops
and Livestock
Mixed Field Crops8.5
X-axis labelNorthern & WesternSouthernEastern & Midland
Specialist Tillage0.22.51.9
Specialist Dairying2.2112.2
Specialist Beef Production34.226.813.2
Specialist Sheep11.23.92.3
Mixed Grazing Livestock4.52.51.6
Mixed Crops and Livestock0.210.6
Mixed Field Crops4.25.12.3
  • Close to two thirds of the Specialist Sheep farms were in the Northern and Western region (64.2%).
  • Approximately seven in ten of all Specialist Dairying farms were in the Southern region (71.6%) and the majority of the Specialist Tillage farms were in the Southern region (55.0%), and the Eastern and Midland region (40.6%).
  • Specialist Beef Production was most common in the Northern and Western region (46.1%), with more than a third (36.1%) of Specialist Beef Production farms in the Southern region and less than two in ten of the Specialist Beef Production farms in the Eastern and Midland region (17.8%).
X-axis label20202010
Specialist Dairying65.155.3
Mixed Crops and Livestock64.956.3
Specialist Tillage63.656
Mixed Grazing Livestock44.835.9
Specialist Sheep28.930.8
Specialist Beef Production26.927.7
Mixed Field Crops16.216.9
  • Larger farms in 2020 were found to be Specialist Dairying (65.1 hectares), Mixed Crops and Livestock (64.9 hectares), Specialist Tillage (63.6 hectares) and Mixed Grazing Livestock (44.8 hectares). These four farm types have increased in average size by approximately 10 hectares between 2010 and 2020.
  • Both other specialist farm types, Specialist Sheep and Specialist Beef Production had smaller farm sizes, averages of 28.9 hectares and 26.9 hectares respectively. These two types remained approximately unchanged in terms of average AAU since 2010.
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Table 1.1 Number of farms, number of animals and average number of animals by region (NUTS 2), 2020
 FarmsAnimalsAverage animals per farm
Northern & Western   
Eastern & Midland   
  • In 2020, there were 7.3 million cattle in Ireland, 54.1% were in the Southern region.
  • There were over 5.5 million sheep with 50.9% in the Northern and Western region.
  • In 2020, there were 1.6 million pigs with 46.7% in the Southern region.
  • Ireland had close to 16.5 million poultry in 2020. The majority of poultry (72.7%) were located in the Northern and Western region.

Go to: Farm Structure