Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has been advised to establish a voluntary dairy cow exit and reduction scheme by the Food Vision dairy group, despite none of the three farmer organisations in the group backing the recommendation.

The reduction and exit scheme was rejected outright by Macra. The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) reserved its position on the measure and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) reserved its position on the report as a whole.

The same judgement was put forward by the farm organisations on the recommendation that the dairy sector reduce its chemical nitrogen by 27% to 30% by 2030, with an interim reduction of 22% to 25% to be achieved by 2025.

Stakeholders claimed that they did not see the final report before it was delivered to Minister McConalogue.


The group was convened by the Minister in January and chaired by former director of Teagasc Prof Gerry Boyle, who noted that it had not been possible to “secure unanimous agreement”.

The Department of Agriculture estimated that the income foregone for every cow culled is €1,770 for farms exiting dairy completely and €2,910 for farms reducing numbers.

However, these figures are not indicative of compensation that would be issued if the scheme were to be brought in, the Department stated. An estimated overall cost of such a scheme was not reported to the Minister.

It was noted that an exit scheme would only be effective if the “breeding ruminants” culled on one farm were not offset by a subsequent increase on another farm and that a similar scheme should be considered for other ruminant sectors.

The report included 19 recommendations in total. ICMSA president Pat McCormack was disappointed with “how the whole group turned out”.

IFA dairy chair Stephen Arthur said there is “still so much to clear up” and Macra president John Keane warned of “land sterilisation” resulting from the exit scheme proposal.