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Background Notes & Appendices

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This report presents the results from the Farm Structure Survey 2016 conducted by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in June 2016. This work was undertaken within the framework of the statistical programme of the European Union, and in particular, Regulation (EC) No 1166/2008 1. Similar Surveys were conducted in all EU member states during 2015/2016 in order to collect comparable statistics across the European Union.


Data collection

For the Farm Structure Survey 2016, the register of agricultural holdings used to contact farmers was constructed by amalgamating the CSO intercensal Agriculture Register and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine's (DAFM) 2015 Corporate Client System.

Farm Structure Survey questionnaires were sent to 55,909 farmers in the week preceding the reference date of 1st June 2016 and up to four reminders were issued in order to maximise the overall response rate.

In an effort to reduce the response burden on farmers, all questions relating to cattle, cereals and potatoes were eliminated from the June 2016 Farm Structure questionnaire as sufficient data was found to be available from existing administrative data sources from DAFM. Data on cereals and potatoes were obtained from DAFM’s Single Payment Scheme (Council Regulation No 1782/2003) while all data on cattle was obtained from DAFM’s Animal Identification and Movement system (Council Regulation No 1760/2000).


Sample Selection

Farms were selected using data on the CSO Agricultural Register. The selection process comprised of 5 stages. There were a number of stages for whom we wanted to have a 100% sample. Farms selected for stage 1 and 2 were defined because of their specialist nature and their relatively small population. Sheep farms were selected in stage 3, as we do not have an administrative data source for sheep and a matched sample is required annually for which we have a minimum sample size. Stage 4 included all new births. The remainder of the sample was selected in stage 5.

The specific order of selection was as follows:

  1. All Poultry farms (farms with greater than or equal to 100 birds),
  2. All Mushroom farms
  3. Sheep farms, we generated a matched sample with the June 2015 survey, which resulted in 5,426 sheep farms.
  4. Stratum 4 consisted of all new births according to administrative files. Once the births were checked and duplicates identified, the final number of births was 5,273.
  5. Stratum 1-4 initially resulted in 11,229 units selected into the sample. In order to generate a final sample of approximately 56,000, 45,000 units needed to be selected from the remaining 96,409 units on the sampling frame that were not included in stratum 1-4 . These units were selected based on NUTS3 region and farm size and resulted in 49 additional strata.

The final sample was checked for duplicates or inactivity on the Agricultural Register, which resulted in dropping 281 units from the sample. This resulted in a final sample of 55,909.


Estimation of the total number of farm holdings

The total number of active farms in June 2016 was estimated to be 137,500. This figure was estimated by combining data from the FSS survey and various administrative sources to create a full dataset of active farms in Ireland.


Comparability with Census 2010 and Farm Structure Survey 2013

In Census 2010 every farm received a questionnaire and their results were combined with administrative sources. This differs somewhat from the methodology described above, which could impact on the comparability of some data. In the Farm Structure Survey 2013, the methodology is very similar to the methodology described above. Broadly speaking, results from Census 2010, FSS 2013 and FSS 2016 are comparable. 



 1 OJ No. L321, 1.12.2008, p.14



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An "agricultural holding" or "holding" means a single unit, both technically and economically, which has a single management and which undertakes agricultural activities listed below within the economic territory of the European Union, either as its primary or secondary activity:

  • growing of non-perennial crops
  • growing of perennial crops
  • plant propagation
  • animal production
  • mixed farming
  • support activities to agriculture and post-harvest crop activities

Agricultural Area Utilised

The Agricultural Area Utilised (AAU) is the combined area under crops, silage, hay, pasture and rough grazing land in use (including fallow land). Areas under roads, tracks, water, bog, marsh, rocks, unused rough grazing land, buildings etc. are excluded.

Farm Type

For analytical purposes, farms are classified in this report as one of eight farm types. These types represent the primary areas of specialisation in Irish Farming.  They are derived from groupings applied to a detailed EU farm typology classification system 1 and are based on the relative economic importance of the various lines of agricultural activity carried out on each farm.  These types are classified as Specialist Tillage, Specialist Dairying, Specialist Beef Production, Specialist Sheep, Mixed Grazing Livestock, Mixed Crops & Livestock, Mixed Field Crops 2 and Other 3.

Standard Output (SO)

The Standard Output (SO) of an agricultural product is defined as the average monetary value of the agricultural output at farm-gate prices. SO is not a measure of farm income. It does not take into account costs, direct payments (such as the Single Farm Payment), value added tax or taxes on products. This has replaced the concept of Standard Gross Margin (SGM) which was previously used to measure the economic size of a farm. Therefore, direct comparisons cannot be made between the economic size of farms in this report and the economic size of farms published for earlier years.

Economic Size

The economic size of the holding is measured as the total standard output of the holding expressed in euro. Holdings are classified by fourteen size classes which are set out in Annex II to Commission Regulation (EC) no 1242/2008. Some of these size classes have been grouped together here and therefore, only eight size classes are presented in this report.

Family Farms

These are farms which are operated as family based enterprises.

Commercial Farms

These are farms registered as companies which paid all their workers as employees (including management) or farms connected with institutions (e.g. schools, colleges, religious communities, prisons etc.). All persons working on commercial farms are classified as regular non-family workers.

Farm Holder

The legal owner of a family farm.

Farm Manager

The person responsible for the day to day running of the farm. On 97.0% of Irish farms, the farm manager was also found to be the holder.

Non-Regular Labour Input

This refers to the labour supplied by those not employed on a regular basis such as casual workers, agricultural contractors and farm relief services.

Annual Work Unit (AWU)

The labour input of each person who worked on the farm was measured in terms of AWUs with one AWU being defined as 1800 hours or more of labour per person per annum.

Significance of Farmwork

This categorises the relative importance of farmwork as an occupation to the farm holder.

Sole occupation: If an individual engaged in farmwork had no other occupation from which an income was earned, then farmwork was the sole occupation.

Major occupation: If farmwork took up the greater part of a worker’s time, it was regarded as a major occupation.

Subsidiary occupation: If the time spent on gainful non-farming activity exceeded that spent on farmwork then farmwork was regarded as a subsidiary occupation. Gainful non-farming activity includes paid farmwork on other farms and all other non-farming activities from which an income was obtained, whether undertaken on or off the farm.


 1 Commission Regulation (EC) No 1242/2008 of 08 December 2008 establishing a Community typology for agricultural holdings (Official Journal of the European Communities No L 335/3 of 13 December 2008)

2 This group includes farms growing various crops (including silage, hay, pasture or rough grazing) but with no dominant crop type.

3 This group includes farms specializing in horticulture, fruit, pig or poultry production, mixed crops, mixed livestock and a small number of unclassified farms.

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The EU Farm Typology Classification System was developed in order to identify and classify relatively homogeneous groups of farms by reference to two economic characteristics of the farm, its type of activity and its economic size. Both of these characteristics are determined by the application of Standard Output (SO) coefficients, estimated regionally per hectare of crop or per animal, to the individual farm’s crop and livestock activities. In this way, all the farm’s activities can be measured and compared on a standardised basis (i.e. SO). The classification system is used for the periodic Censuses and Farm Structure Surveys, the current series of which are conducted under Council Regulation (EU) No 1166/2008 1, as well as the ongoing Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) surveys. A complete description of the Farm Typology system is given in Commission Regulation (EC) no 1242/2008 2.

Standard Output (SO)

The Standard Output (SO) of an agricultural product is defined as the average monetary value of the agricultural output at farm-gate prices. The SO does not take into account costs, direct payments, value added tax or taxes on products. The SO coefficient for each product is determined on the basis of a standard 12-month production period and is calculated as a regional average within each member state. The two regions in Ireland are Southern-Eastern (SE) and Border, Midland, Western (BMW). The SOs used in the case of Farm Structure Survey, were referenced to ‘2013’ (i.e., calculated as the 5-year average of 2011-2015 SOs) and the Irish coefficients are given in Table I below. These values will be updated to take account of economic trends and the frequency of the update is linked to the years in which farm structure surveys are carried out. The Farm Structure Survey will next take place as a Census in June 2020.

Table I "2013" Standard Outputs(SO) - IRELAND
Agricultural Product1Region
Border, Midland & WesternSouthern & Eastern
Common wheat and spelt1,7101,680
Beans and peas1,3281,328
Oilseed rape1,3121,312
Fodder Roots & Brassicas551551
Fresh vegetables, melons, strawberries:
Open air and Outdoor-market gardening14,28914,289
Under glass167,997167,997
Flowers and ornamental plants (excluding nurseries):
Under Glass223,462223,462
Temporary grass for forage: 9393
Other fodder crops: 396362
Permanent pasture and meadow:
Excluding rough grazing 9393
Rough grazing 11
Mushrooms – aggregate for 8 harvests/annum/are34,85934,859
Bovine animals, under one year old623524
Male bovine animals, over one but under two years old209231
Female bovine animals, over one but under two years old191224
Male bovine animals, two years old and over436461
Heifers, two years old and over344370
Dairy cows1,9121,986
Other cows744656
Other sheep4444
Goats (breeding females)231231
Piglets less than 20 kg liveweight7575
Breeding sows of 50 kg and over liveweight803803
Other pigs178178
Broilers (per 100 birds)836836
Laying hens (per 100 birds)1,9541,954
Other poultry (per 100 birds)1,6201,620
1 Units are 'per hectare' for crops and 'per head of animal' for livestock

Economic Size (SO) Classification

The economic size of the holding is measured as the total standard output (SO) of the holding expressed in euro. Holdings are classified by fourteen economic size classes which are set out in Annex II to Commission Regulation (EC) no 1242/2008. Some of these size classes have been grouped together and therefore only eight size classes are presented in this report.


Farm Type Classification

The farm type classification of a farm is determined by the relative contribution of the standard output of the different activities on the holding to the total standard output of the holding. The farm type classification is a three-level hierarchical nomenclature which divides types of farming into the following structure:

-Level 1: General Farm Types (9 headings)

-Level 2: Principal Farm types (21 headings)

-Level 3: Particular Farm types (62 headings)

The complete classification including the definition of farm types is described in Commission Regulation (EC) no 1242/2008.

For EU purposes, all farms included in the Farm Structure Survey were classified down to the most detailed farm type (i.e. Level 3). However, details at Level 1 and 2 are found to be adequate for most analytical purposes. A description of the headings comprising two levels of the basic typology classification as well as the definitions of the headings are given in Table II.

Table II Farm Typology Classification (Levels 1 and 2)
  (in terms of contribution to total SO)
1Specialist Field CropsField crops > 2/3
15 Specialist Cereals, Oilseeds and Protein CropsCereals, Oilseeds and Protein Crops > 2/3
16 General Field CroppingField crops > 2/3 and Cereals, Oilseeds and Protein Crops <= 2/3
2Specialist HorticultureHorticulture > 2/3
3Specialist Permanent CropsPermanent crops > 2/3
35 Specialist vineyardsNot relevant
36 Specialist fruit and citrus fruitFruit and berries > 2/3
37 Specialist olivesNot relevant
38 Various permanent cropsAll other farms in class 3
4Specialist Grazing LivestockGrazing livestock > 2/3
45 Specialist dairyingDairy cows > 3/4 and grazing livestock >1/3;
46 Specialist cattle – rearing and fatteningAll cattle > 2/3 and Dairy cows < = 1/10 and grazing livestock >1/3;
47 Cattle – dairying, rearing and fattening combinedAll cattle > 2/3 and Dairy cows > 1/10 and grazing livestock >1/3
but excluding farms in class 45
48 Sheep, goats and other grazing livestockCattle < = 2/3
5Specialist GranivoresPigs and poultry > 2/3
6Mixed Cropping[Field crops+Horticulture + Perm.Crops >2/3
combined with
[ Field Crops < = 2/3 and
 Horticulture < = 2/3 and
 Permanent crops < = 2/3]
7Mixed LivestockGrazing Livestock + Granivores >2/3
and Grazing Livestock <= 2/3
and Granivores <= 2/3
73 Mixed livestock – mainly grazing animalsGrazing livestock > Granivores
74 Mixed livestock – mainly granivoresGrazing livestock <= Granivores
8Mixed Crops and LivestockFarms excluded from headings 1 to 7
but having a non-zero total SO
83 Field crops and grazing livestock combinedField crops > 1/3 and Grazing livestock > 1/3
84 Various crops and livestock combinedFarms in class 8 excluding those in 83;
Field crops > 1/3 and Granivores> 1/3
9Non-classifiable farmsFarms excluded from headings 1 to 8
  i.e. with a total SO=0

To facilitate the presentation of the Farm Structure Survey 2016 results according to type of farming, eight summary farm type classes relevant to Irish agriculture were selected from particular groupings of the farm typology classification headings described above. These derived farm type classes are identified in Table III below.

Table III Irish Farm Type Classes
HeadingTypology CodeDescription
A: Specialist Tillage15 and 16, excluding 166Specialist field crops but excluding mixed field crops
B: Specialist Dairying45
C: Specialist Beef Production46
D: Specialist Sheep481
E: Mixed Grazing Livestock 47 and 48 excluding 481No dominant enterprise; dairying and cattle rearing and fattening combined, mixed cattle and sheep systems as well as farms having silage, hay, pasture or rough grazing
F: Mixed Crops and Livestock8No dominant enterprise; various crops enterprises combined with grazing or other livestock
G: Mixed Field Crops166Farms growing various crops (including silage, hay, pasture or rough grazing) but with no dominant crop type
H: Other2 , 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9Specialist horticulture or fruit, specialist pig or poultry, mixed crops or mixed livestock as well as "unclassified" farms

Livestock Units

A Livestock Unit is a standard measurement unit that allows the aggregation of numbers of livestock across different categories of livestock for comparison purposes.

Each livestock category is assigned a coefficient which reflects the relative importance of livestock in that category. The number of livestock in each such category is multiplied by the coefficient for that category and the results summed across categories to give a standardised total number of livestock for a particular farm size class or for a particular farm type. Coefficients used for each livestock category differ throughout the world. The coefficients used in this publication are taken from EU Regulation No.1166/2008 covering the 2016 Farm Structure Survey. Table IV below gives the coefficient for each livestock category.

Table IV Livestock Unit Coefficients
Bovine animalsUnder 1 year old0.4
1 but less than 2 years old0.7
Male, 2 years old and over1
Heifers, 2 year old and over0.8
Dairy cows1
Other cows, 2 years old and over0.8
Sheep and goats 0.1
Equidae 0.8
PigsPiglets having a live weight of under 20 kg0.027
 Breeding sows weighing 50 kg and over0.5
 Other pigs0.3
 Laying hens0.014
 Other poultry0.03
[1] Council Regulation (EC) No 1166/2008 of 19 November 2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods (and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 571/88) as implemented by Commission Regulation (EC) No 1200/2009 (Official Journal of the European Communities No L 321/14 of 01 December 2008 and No L 329/1 of 15 December 2009 respectively)
[2] Commission Regulation (EC) No 1242/2008 of 08 December 2008 establishing a Community typology for agricultural holdings (Official Journal of the European Communities No L 335/3 of 13 December 2008)

International comparison:
See also: