Farmer shareholders in Glanbia Co-op have voted overwhelmingly in favour of paying €32 million out of the co-op's reserve to dairy and grain farmers to support their incomes in light of the difficult year for dairy prices.

The vote came after a special general meeting in Kilkenny this afternoon.

There had been a call for a show of hands to count the votes, but some members insisted on a secret ballot instead.

The secret ballot was held and 320 farmers were eligible to vote.

The outcome was that 295 voted in favour of the first payout from Glanbia Co-op to its members in six years.

25 farmers voted against, which means that the vote passed with 92% in favour.

The payments will be made to active dairy and grain farmers and includes a loyalty bonus for those who have purchased fertilisers and feed in 2014.

There has been some concern expressed at the meeting that the farmers who are not active in either dairy or grain production will not benefit from the distribution of the reserves of the co-op.

However, the chairman of the co-op Liam Herlihy said that the board is very pleased that the financial strength of Glanbia with assets of €1.7bn gave the capability to support farmer members in 2015.

He said that he believes that the members will particularly value this €32m payout as market conditions are expected to be more challenging in 2015 than in recent times.

He said that we are on the cusp of an exciting new era in dairy expansion which represents a significant growth of opportunity for members and the industry.

With opportunities, there will also be some challenges.

However, the Glanbia organisation is well equipped to assist its member suppliers in managing these challenges and these supports approved today provide very tangible benefits of membership to farmer members.

The special general meeting was held at the Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny this afternoon.

IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Sean O'Leary said while the move was important in the context of challenging months ahead for dairy farmers' incomes, it was vital the provisions would be fair to all producers, and would not undermine the mainstream milk prices.

Mr O’Leary said: “The move by Glanbia is a welcome contribution, as it seeks not only to support milk prices, but also to help with the payment of super-levy fines and to somewhat reduce the cost of inputs.

He added it “is crucial that any support mechanism implemented by co-ops does not undermine the main stream milk price”.