Pauls Cows

ICMSA say that average dairy farmers “coming out” with less than half the minimum hourly wage

 In the run-up to the Teagasc National Farm Survey that’s expected to show a serious drop in dairy farmer income in 2023 and with the challenges of this year already fully evident, the President of ICMSA, Denis Drennan, has said that the reality of dairy farming in 2024 is that average dairy farmer income is now “well below” the minimum legal hourly wage. He said that the collapse in incomes of those producing the milk that supported Ireland’s most important indigenous industry is a damning indictment of the Government’s stewardship of Irish farming and food and provided a ‘textbook’ example of how to drive a vibrant and healthy multi-billion Euro sector potentially ‘off a cliff’.

Mr. Drennan said that even allowing for the fact that ICMSA would obviously always represent most forcibly the interests of family dairy farms, the ‘wipeout’ of dairy farmer income presided over by the Government and cheered-on by a “blissfully ignorant and insulated class of commentators” was unprecedented and easily verified by the most cursory look at the figures and data.

“We know that the Teagasc National Farm Survey will be published shortly.  Obviously, even at this stage that Survey is going to confirm what we already know; that dairy farmer income has fallen again, and we think 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.

Mr. Drennan took as an example the average dairy farmer milking 92 cows with each cows producing 6000 litres, giving a total production of 552,000 litres.   Based on a milk price of 43cpl with a production cost of 37cpl, giving a net of just 6 cents per litre, that farm is now earning a total of approximately €33,000 from the milk enterprise out of which that average farmer will have repayments – often linked to requirements to meet ever increasing environmental regulations – of 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 fulltime farmers – the ones on whom our world-famous, flagship food export is built – are coming out with”, said Mr. Drennan.

“There’ll be those who shrug their shoulders at that.   But those people won’t be getting by on four or five hours broken sleep per night for the ten weeks of calving and they are not the ones who are milking cows twice a day, every day, every week. We have no problem calling it 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.

Mr. Drennan repeated his call for Minister 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”, concluded the ICMSA President.

Ends          8 July 2024

Denis Drennan, 086-8389401

President, ICMSA


Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758

ICMSA Press Office