Farmers are planning increases of 52% in milk output, 40% in beef output and almost 60% in sheep numbers between now and 2021.

This is according to the results of a survey conducted for Ulster Bank.

The survey was undertaken by Dr Pat Bogue of Broadmore Research among a sample of 275 farmers.

Respondents were asked to state their plans to expand milk, beef and sheep by 2015 and 2021.

The results indicate that their plans are in line with the Food Harvest 2020 report which sets a target of increasing milk output by 50% and beef output by 40% by 2020.

The survey projection of 60% growth in sheep numbers is substantially higher than the Food Harvest 2020 target of a 20% increase in the national sheep flock.

Nine out of 10 farmers surveyed plan to invest in livestock, housing, slurry storage or machinery over the next three years. The mix of funding for investment and expansion is farm cash flow (41%), borrowing (38%), savings (14%) and off-farm income (7%).

Land availability, especially in dairy farming, and access to finance were identified as the main limiting factors to expansion.