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Protestant farmers more likely to have large farms, Northern Ireland statistics show

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Protestant farmers are more likely to farm on large farms than their Catholic counterparts, official figures have shown.

Statistics from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs give a snapshot of life for Northern Ireland's farmers, with a focus on social and equality issues impacting the sector.

It was found around 85% of Catholic farmers farmed 'very small farms', compared to 68% of their Protestant counterparts.

Protestant farmers were found to be more likely to farm on large farms (10% compared to 2%), dairy farms (16% compared to 5%), and lowland farms (41% compared to 15%).

Of Northern Ireland's total farmers, 51% stated their religion as Protestant, 42% stated it as Catholic, with 6% stating other or no relgion.

Overall picture

Generally, Northern Ireland's farmers are overwhelmingly older males, and are almost exclusively all white.

The average age of farmers was 59 years old, with only 8% of farmers identified as head of the business who were under the age of 40.

Only 9% of principal farming partners were female - with the majority of female farmers working on 'very small farms'.

With their age profile skewing towards the higher end, farmers were seen to have disabilities more frequently than the average member of the public.

The figures show just under a third of farmers have a long-term limiting condition, compared with one-fifth of the general population.

An interesting correlation is also seen between the age profile of farmers and the size of the farm they tend.

Farmers of very small farms were more likely to have a long-term limiting condition than their counterparts on large farms, by 32% compared to 20%.

A correlation also exists between farm size and the marital status of the farmer, with 71% of farmers on very small farms married compared to 84% of farmers on large farms.

The figures on the social and equality status of farmers in Northern Ireland have come at a time of uncertainty in the sector.

Last week the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee called for the future of the agriculture industry in the region to be examined post-Brext in the context of the absence of a devolved Assembly.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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