Selecting the sample of farms from the FADN's field of observation

This chapter describes how farms are selected and the techniques that are used to achieve as high a degree of representativity as possible.

Member States conduct their own selection Top

Before the creation of FADN, several Member States were already conducting agricultural surveys based on farm accounts. Some of these surveys were based on a selective sample of farms - as opposed to the entire population of farms. To select a sample of farms, these Member States had established their own selection plans.

Most Liaison Agencies of the Member States continue to conduct national surveys and have thus retained their own selection plans. Current practice is for Liaison Agencies to design their own selection plans for the European Union survey. The plans are submitted to the FADN European Union Committee for approval. They vary in technical sophistication from one Member State to another.

Stratification Top

The use of stratification

Within FADN's field of observation, there is a great diversity of farming. Some farms are very large (in terms of their economic size) while others may be very small. Some farms concentrate on crop production, others specialise in livestock rearing while yet others practice mixed farming, that is, both crop and livestock production. On these two criteria alone i.e. - economic size and type of farming -, the field of observation of European Union farms is highly heterogeneous.

To ensure that the sample of farms adequately reflects this heterogeneity, Liaison Agencies stratify the field of observation before the sample of farms is selected. If this were not done, there would be a greater risk that particular categories of farm (say, large dairy farms in one region, or small fruit farms in another region) would not be represented adequately (or at all) by the sample.

Stratification is a statistical technique which is used to increase sampling efficiency (i.e. to minimise the number of farms required to represent the variety of farms in the field of observation). The Commission makes extensive use of this technique and uses three criteria for stratification: region, economic size and type of farming, as described in the following sections.


For FADN purposes the European Union is divided into FADN regions. All farms in FADN's field of observation are classified into economic size classes and type of farming.

A detailed typology has been created for use by various bodies at European Union level. It is sufficiently broad to encompass the many different types of farming that are found in the European Union. This typology is described in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1242/2008 of 8 December 2008.

Typology identifies the principal types of farming, which are then further broken down. How are farms allocated to a specific type? In other words, what are the definitions of different types of farming?

Types of farming are defined in terms of the relative importance of the different enterprises on the farm. Relative importance is itself measured quantitatively as a proportion of each enterprise's SO to the farms' total SO. (see example of classification of a farm).

For the purpose of computing Standard Results, the Commission uses groups of farming types. For more information on how these Standard Results are calculated and published, refer to Diffusion chapter.

Example of classification of a farm according to European Union typology

Assume: a farm with 50 dairy cows and 10 breeding sows and 5 dairy cows

two principal types of farming would appear to be suitable descriptions of this farm:

51specialist pigs
74mixed livestock, mainly granivores

To which type of farming does this farm belong?

EnterpriseSOSize of enterpriseEnterprise SOEnterprise SO as proportion of& farm's total SO
Breeding sows100050 breeding sows50.00083.3
Dairying20005 dairy cows10.00016.7%
  Farm's total SO60.000100%

The definition of the two principal types of farming are as follows:

51specialist pigspigs > 2/3 of farm's total SO
74mixed livestock, mainly granivoresgrazing livestock and forage ≤ 1/3 granivores in farm's total SO

Since breeding sows > 2/3 of farm's total SO, this farm is classified as "specialist pigs" for principal type of farming.

The definition of the 3 particular types of farming is as follows:

511specialist pig rearingbreeding sows contribute > 2/3 of farm's total SO
512specialist pig fatteningpiglets and othe pigs contribute > 2/3 of farm's total SO
513pig rearing and fattening combinedholdings in class 51 excluding those in classes 511 and 512

Since breeding sows contribute > 2/3 of farm's total SO, this farm is classified as "specialist pig rearing" for particular type of farming.

The universe and field of observation represented as a matrix of cells Top

The 3-way stratification of the universe allows it to be represented as a 3-dimensional matrix of cells. The number of farms in each cell is derived from the Farm Structure Survey (FSS) organised by Eurostat. This survey employs the same typology as that used for FADN.

Each cell corresponds to a specific category of farms. Some cells represent a large number of farms: for instance, in Ireland there are approximately 18 000 farms in the economic size class from 4 000 to less than 8 000 euro in the cell that practise farming type 46 - specialist cattle (rearing and fattening). Other cells represent very few farms: in Denmark for example, there are only about 40 farms of size from 15 000 to less than 25 000 which practise farming type 2 - specialist horticulture. Needless to say, some cells are empty - such as those representing vineyards, big or small, in Finland.

The Commission and the Liaison Agencies select the sample of farms not from the field of observation as a whole but from the cells which make up the field of observation. Sample farms are thus selected from each cell - in this way all the cells are, in principle, represented in the sample. Thus the FADN sample of farms reflects the heterogeneity in the field of observation.

Year of Farm Structure Survey (FSS)
Member State Farms FSS Coverage field of observation FADN
Total Field FADN Farms % SO % UAA % AWU % SO
Belgium 37760 29590 78 99 96 90 2010
Bulgaria 254410 114180 45 96 98 67 2010
Czech Republic 26250 17480 67 99 98 93 2010
Denmark 38830 28360 73 99 96 91 2010
Germany (*) 285030 191690 67 98 94 88 2010
Estonia 19190 7600 40 98 89 80 2010
Ireland 139600 87270 63 96 85 73 2010
Greece 709500 357220 50 93 91 82 2010
Spain 965000 587010 61 98 92 84 2010
France 472210 317450 67 98 93 88 2010
Croatia 157450 81500 52 93 91 68 2010
Italy 1010330 536550 53 96 89 82 2010
Cyprus 35380 10470 30 93 78 73 2010
Latvia 81800 24680 30 93 80 56 2010
Lithuania 171800 61710 36 91 84 61 2010
Luxembourg 2080 1590 76 98 98 93 2010
Hungary 491330 102990 21 93 94 50 2010
Malta 9360 2800 30 94 60 70 2010
Netherlands (*) 67480 49520 73 99 95 90 2010
Austria 140430 92430 66 97 89 88 2010
Poland 1429010 742940 52 94 87 67 2010
Portugal 264420 101580 38 94 89 56 2010
Romania 3629660 1136250 31 86 82 60 2010
Slovenia 72380 44790 62 94 89 78 2010
Slovakia 23570 3660 16 95 93 74 2010
Finland 54400 41490 76 98 93 93 2010
Sweden 67150 29430 44 95 86 74 2010
United Kingdom 185190 98270 53 97 86 78 2010

Determining the optimal size of the sample Top

Sampling fractions vary from cell to cell. In some Member States, the Liaison Agencies have sufficient data on the variability of farms within the field of observation to compute optimal sampling fractions. In other cases, this is not possible and sampling fractions are set according to the number of farms in the cell. After the selection plan is drawn up, farms can shift from one cell to another if there is a change in their economic size or type of farming. This and other similar factors influence the sampling fraction as described below.

The extent to which the sample is random Top

Ideally, farms are selected at random from the field of observation. However, various factors prevent full randomisation:

  1. Availability of farm accounts. To complete the European Union FADN Farm Return, a suitable set of farm accounts (or similar financial information such as receipts, invoices, etc.) must be readily available. Some farmers do not have the necessary information at hand, and in these instances it is impractical to attempt to complete the Farm Return. In some countries, the Liaison Agencies assist farmers to keep accounts if these would not otherwise be kept.

    Overall, the number of farmers keeping accounts is gradually increasing.

  2. Voluntary participation. The participation of farmers is on a voluntary basis. Some of those farms initially selected for the sample may not want to participate. In this case, the farm will be replaced by drawing another farm from the same cell in the field of observation.

As a result; the sample is; effectively, drawn at random from the subset of farms within the field of observation which fulfil the above two conditions.

Selection plans Top

Before the beginning of each accounting period, Liaison Agencies are obliged to draw up a selection plan in accordance with Commission Regulation (EU) No 1291/2009 of 18 December 2009 and subsequent amendments. A variety of selection procedures are used in Member States. During implementation of the selection plan several problems can occur, for example there are not enough farmers who are willing to participate from particular cells and that the actual sample may fall short of the intended size and distribution.

The size of the FADN sample Top

The reasons why in practice the intended sample size may not be attained

There are several reasons why the intended sample size may not be attained or, indeed, may be surpassed. For example, it may be difficult to find sufficient farmers in a particular cell who are both willing to participate and who have the necessary information. Another explanation may be that a participating farmer may give up farming before the completion of the accounting year. A further reason may be that the European Union FADN Farm Return is incorrectly completed and unable to be corrected, thus failing at the control stage. (See Data Quality Chapter).

Actual sample size in recent years

The FADN sample size and average weights of a sample farm differ between Member States, as shown below.

Accounting year :      FSS : 2016      SO : 2013
Country Actual sample size Number of farms represented
in the field of observation
Average weight
of a sample farm
Belgium 1044 28234 27
Bulgaria 2241 61436 27
Czech Republic 1373 18161 13
Denmark 1853 26087 14
Germany (*) 9035 179754 20
Estonia 659 7625 12
Ireland 908 93167 103
Greece 3638 336786 93
Spain 8718 434499 50
France 7513 296726 39
Croatia 1336 72439 54
Italy 10306 559540 54
Cyprus 508 10509 21
Latvia 1000 25016 25
Lithuania 1167 62530 54
Luxembourg 450 1410 3
Hungary 2146 110824 52
Malta 520 3099 6
Netherlands (*) 1498 46712 31
Austria 1872 70793 38
Poland 12272 746107 61
Portugal 2062 106576 52
Romania 5109 525596 103
Slovenia 891 44394 50
Slovakia 562 4152 7
Finland 724 34720 48
Sweden 1005 28618 28
United Kingdom 2848 100773 35

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