The Irish Government is feared to be proposing a cull of 65,000 cows per year to bring the agricultural sector in line with EU-imposed climate targets.

However, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) is warning that any plan to cull Irish dairy cows must be a voluntary one. Its president, Pat McCormack, said: “If there is to be a scheme, it needs to be a voluntary scheme. That’s absolutely critical because there’s no point in culling numbers from an individual who has borrowed on the back of a huge financial commitment on the back of achieving a certain target that’s taken from under him.”

The Scottish Farmer: Irish dairy farmers want any government cow cull to be voluntary Irish dairy farmers want any government cow cull to be voluntary

He added: “We should be investing in an infrastructure that can deliver from a scientific perspective. And we know low emissions are better and we should be continuing to invest in further science and research because that’s absolutely critical as we move forward.

"This isn’t a start. This isn’t the end. This is an environmental journey and agriculture can play a significant role there.

The Scottish Farmer: Pat McCormack president of ICMSAPat McCormack president of ICMSA

"Farmers are willing to do their part from an environmental impact perspective, but it is important to acknowledge that the current dairy herd was at the same level as it was 30 years ago.”

Official numbers from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency showed that dairy cow numbers increased by 22.6% and milk production increased by 36.9% between 2015 and 2021. To hit emissions targets by 2025, almost 200,000 cows may have to be culled which is estimated to cost around €600m (£516m).