The average family farm income in Ireland last year reached a record high of €31,374, according to the latest National Farm Survey published today by Teagasc.

That represented a sharp increase of 32% on the figure for 2016.

But many in farming might argue that the overall figure could give a misleading impression of how well the majority have done as income for two thirds of farmers actually stood broadly still. 

The overall increase in reported farm income was driven almost entirely by an increase in incomes in the dairy sector.

The income gains in this sector were made on the back of very strong milk prices and an expansion in dairy output - an additional 300,000 dairy cattle have added to the national herd over the past four years alone. 

According to Teagasc, when the dairy sector is excluded, the average family farm income on the remaining farms was only about €20,000 last year. 

Average income on dairy farms amounted to just over €86,000, an increase of 65% on those farms compared with 2016.

The dairy farms that expanded the most and those in the east and the south saw the biggest income gains. 

Incomes on cattle and sheep farms were far lower at between €12,600 and €16,600 for 2017. 

Today's figures also show an average gain of 20% for incomes in the tillage sector, to €37,000 last year on the back of better yields and improved prices. 

Sheep farmers gained about 8% on the back of improved sheep welfare payments to bring their average farm incomes to almost €16,900. 

Overall however the figures show that without EU payments and farm supports incomes in the cattle and sheep sectors would have been negligible.

In many cases farmers in those sectors would have made no income at all during 2017 if left to market processes alone.