The average dairy farmer is earning €5.76 an hour, significantly below the minimum wage, according to calculations by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

ICMSA president Denis Drennan said it is expected that the soon to be published Teagasc National Farm Survey will show dairy farmer income has fallen again.

“We think it will now be coming in under €50,000 for 2023, but that figure hides the true extent of the disgrace that is dairy farmer income in 2024,” he said.

Drennan said the ICMSA took the example of an average dairy farmer milking 92 cows with each cow producing 6,000l, giving a total annual production of 552,000l.

Based on a milk price of 43c/l with a production cost of 37c/l, giving a net of just 6c/l, that farm is now earning a total of approximately €33,000 from the milk enterprise, he said.

Drennan added that out of that, the average farmer will have repayments – often linked to requirements to meet ever increasing environmental regulations – to the order of €15,000. This reduces his/her income to €18,000.

“That €18,000 based on farmers working a 60-hour week represents, to our most skilled farmer supporting a multi-billion-euro sector, the grand total of €5.76 per hour and that includes working Sundays, bank holidays, etc.

“That’s less than half the minimum hourly wage and is - we need to say this honestly - an absolute disgrace.

“This is what our most technical and trained full-time farmers – the ones on whom our world-famous, flagship food export is built – are coming out with,” he said.


Drennan added that the organisation has no problem calling this income figure “for what it is - a disgrace”.

“The hardest working people in the Irish agri sector are ending up with an hourly income that’s well below the minimum hourly rate allowed by the State.

“The State and its officials can protest all they like about the support they give and their good intentions.

“The rest of us – and certainly ICMSA’s farmer-members – have to deal with their actual income. They can’t pay the bank or bills with ministerial intentions,” he said.

All sector farm summit

The ICMSA president repeated his call for Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to convene an all-sector farm summit as quickly as possible, so that the collapse in both incomes and confidence right across all sectors of Irish farming can be identified and addressed.

“We are in the throes of a slow-motion collapse of our multi-billion-euro farm and food sector and the only response from those officials charged with responsibility is silence.

“We have to take the wheel and stop this aimless, utterly destructive drift that so many seem content with and we have to look at generational renewal as the figures outlined above will not be tolerated by the next generation,” Drennan added.