If you picked a random UK sheep or beef farm, the chances are it would be making a loss, EBLEX says.

The end of direct farming subsidies and the true cost of farm labour make most livestock producers unprofitable, according to figures to be released next week.

The shocking figures are the first to look at the true cost of producing a kilogramme of beef or lamb, said Nick Allen, Eblex south east regional manger.

"If you include all the unpaid farm labour, the average farm is losing money," Allen said. "That is especially true for beef farms and those in upland areas."

The survey of 318 farms by Promar found almost every one failing to include accurate labour costs on balance sheets. The survey data was used to work out how much farmers' time is worth. It hopes the figures will encourage them to start including labour in their accounts, giving a much better picture of production costs.

First, researchers looked at how farmers spend their working day and what skills other family members contribute to the business.

Then they benchmarked the value of the different skills used - from manual labour to farm management - by comparing them with the cost of such skills in other sectors of the economy. They calculated from this that the hourly cost of labour on the farm was £11.18. This is the figure that should be applied to the farmer's time, as well as those of farmhands, spouses and children.

For the average livestock unit that means farmers and their families are putting in £31,000 of free labour a year.

"The figures will show the huge discrepancy between the good farms and the less good ones," said Allen. "There's a lot people can do to become more efficient."

The intention of the research was not to put pressure on processors to pay more for their meat, Allen added.