The age profile of farmers in the Western Region is changing. Farmers are getting older and by 2010 for each farmer under 35 there were more than 10 farmers over 55 years of age. This changing age profile has implications for the type and amount of output from farms in the West.
The most recent Census of Agriculture (2010) shows that more than half (56%) of the farmers in the Western Region (31,467) were over the age of 55, with 30% of these over 65 years of age (see Fig. 1). There is a higher proportion of farms in the older age categories now than in the last two decades. In 1991 50% of Western Region farmers were over 55, but by 2000 this had fallen to 44% before increasing again in 2010. While the number of Western Region farmers past retirement age is significant (16,838) the age profile of farmers in the region is similar to that in the EU where 30% of farmers are over 65 and only 10% under 35.
Figure 1: Farmers in the Western Region by Age Category, 2010
There were only 2,999 (5%) farmers aged under 35 in the Western Region in 2010 and fewer younger farmers now than in either 2000, or 1991 (the previous agricultural censuses) when farmers under 35 made up 11% of farmers in the region (Fig. 2).
Figure 2: Age Categories of Farmers in Western Region 1991 to 2010
Farmers in the Western Region have tended to be older than those in the rest of Ireland (in 1991 43% of farmers in the rest of Ireland were over 55 compared to 50% in the Western Region) but the pattern of change is very similar with fewer farmers in the Rest of Ireland in older age categories in 2000 (37% in Rest of Ireland, 44% in Western Region) and in 2010 when 48% in the Rest of Ireland were aged 55 years and older and 56% in the Western Region.
As mentioned in a previous post, much of the structural change in agriculture occurred between 1991 and 2000, and this was associated with older farmers leaving agriculture and increased opportunity for younger famers to take over farm holdings. There has been less change in farm numbers and size since then and numbers in the older age categories have again increased.
Improved efficiency and productivity on farm tends to be associated with younger farmers with older farmers less likely to invest in their farms. With almost of a third of Western Region famers over the retirement age there are significant implications for the development of agriculture in the region.
 CSO, 2010 Census of Agriculture 2010