Members of the Glanbia co-op have voted in favour of the creation of a joint venture by 71%.
The co-op vote will see Glanbia separate its dairy processing business, which the co-op will control, from other parts of the Glanbia company including its fast growing nutritionals business.
The co-op will own 60% of the joint venture and Glanbia will own 40%.
71% of members voted in favour of the proposal.
The historically high turnout of 77% was welcomed by IFA President John Bryan.
Completion of the joint venture, which plans to invest €180m in new and enhanced milk processing facilities, is conditional on approval by Glanbia shareholders. They will vote on the proposal at an EGM next Tuesday, November 20.
Subject to approval at the EGM, the joint venture will be operational from November 25. It will be known as Glanbia Ingredients Ireland Limited.
"After a number of months of constructive and informative debate, we greatly welcome the strong endorsement by society members of the joint venture proposal,'' commented Glanbia's chief executive John Moloney in a statement.
He said that while the deal is still subject to Glanbia plc shareholder approval, the approval by society members represents a ''significant and penultimate step'' towards the completion of the joint venture.
''The joint venture presents substantial strategic opportunity for both Glanbia and the society. From a society perspective, it creates a strong platform from which to grow milk volumes and capture the benefits arising from increased milk production and processing post the abolition of milk quotas in 2015. For Glanbia plc, the joint venture enables it to continue its successful international growth strategy and maximise value for all shareholders,'' he added.
Today's vote also paves the way for a second ballot for the co-op to cut its stake by a further 10%.
That vote will be held in two stages on November 28 and December 12.
That vote, however, would require the approval of 75% of shareholders, above the 71% who voted in favour of the joint venture today.