Farmers feel betrayed by the Government’s decision to scrap plans for a cow exit scheme, an Irish Farmers Journal survey has found.

The survey was completed by 295 dairy farmers, of which 56% said that the Government should not have shelved plans for a cow cull scheme.

Farmers cited broken promises and a lack of support, and said that an exit scheme would have provided older farmers and those without successors a dignified way to retire. There is also a worry among farmers that the decision will negatively impact the rural economy.

One farmer told this newspaper that he felt “utterly betrayed” by political parties and farming organisations.

“It is disappointing to see that promises are not kept. This decision affects not just our businesses but our families and future planning.”

Farmers worry that the impact of the decision will be felt beyond the farmyard, and expressed concern about the economic impact it could have on rural towns and villages. Some respondents predict a negative ripple effect on local businesses and communities, and worry about the loss of spending power and jobs.


“The decision to scrap the exit scheme is short-sighted. It will hit local economies hard as farmers have less to spend in their communities,” said one farmer.

“Rural communities depend on the spending power of farmers. This move will hurt small businesses and local economies,” another said.

There is also a fear that scrapping the scheme will lead to further consolidation of the dairy industry, favouring larger producers and increasing the influence of processors and retailers. This is seen as detrimental to smaller farms and rural communities by a numbe of farmers:

“Smaller farms might opt out of dairying, leaving a reduced number of larger producers[...] Increased consolidation will mean increased control and influence for processors and retailers.”

“This will only benefit the big players in the industry, leaving small farmers struggling to survive.”

“We’re moving towards a model where big farms dominate, which isn’t good for diversity or local economies.”

There is a consensus that an exit scheme would also release land for younger farmers. Many feel this would have been beneficial for generational renewal and sustainability.

“It would have allowed small non-profit farmers to exit farming and pass land on to the next generation.”

“An exit scheme would have been a fair way for older farmers to retire with dignity and make room for younger ones.”

“Without a proper exit strategy, we’re stuck in a cycle that doesn’t allow for healthy generational change.”

Farmers expressed frustration over the financial and emotional burden of current farming conditions, including compliance with ever-changing regulations, financial losses from selling cows at cull value, and the overall uncertainty affecting their ability to plan for the future.

“I had to cut cow numbers every year over the last three years, selling them at cull value and taking a huge financial hit.”

“How in God’s name is any farmer expected to plan for the future of their business.”

“The stress of constant regulatory changes and financial instability is becoming too much to bear.”


Many believe that if farmers are to reduce cow numbers or exit the industry, they should be adequately compensated. There are calls for fair compensation schemes, particularly for those nearing retirement or without successors.

“If the Government wishes to reduce cow numbers, the farmers who do so should be compensated fully for their animals as they de-stock,” said one farmer.

Another added that “fair compensation is essential if farmers are expected to reduce their herds. Without it, many will face financial ruin.”

“We need a scheme that fairly compensates those who are ready to exit, ensuring they can retire without financial worries.”