Over a quarter of the country’s 48,000 small farmers are planning to lease out their farms over the next five years.

Their plans to leave active farming would see approximately 425,000ac coming on to the land leasing market. That is the equivalent of one in every 25ac of land farmed in the country going up for lease.

Small beef and sheep producers farmed an average of 13ha in 2022, resulting in an average farm income of just €2,600, according to Teagasc’s latest small farmer survey.

These farms face multiple challenges of lower productivity, older farmer age profile and smaller direct payments, when compared to the general farming population.

The stark findings come as over 4,000 fewer farmers applied for the Basic Income Support for Sustainability this year than did so last year.

The Teagasc data predicts a sea change in Irish farming, with the majority of small farmers surveyed being beef and sheep farmers in the north and west.