Less than a fifth of farmers plan to fully retire, according to latest research.

It concluded that just 19 per cent of farmers plan on calling time on their career, and those who do retire, do so later than most other workers.

Over a quarter of farmers (27 per cent) have not discussed later life plans with anyone at all, while the smaller the farm the less likely the farmer will retire and 21 per cent of farmers plan to never give up.

That’s the verdict of a new study from the University of Exeter in collaboration with NFU Mutual.

Prof. Matt Lobley, of the University of Exeter, led the research. He has 30 years of experience researching farm transfers.

“Farming is a way of life, and it’s an identity,” he said. “Facing up to the reality of stepping back and being no longer in charge tends to put people off.

“It’s all a bit daunting, thinking about handing over management of the business – it reminds people they’re getting old.

“There is much greater awareness of succession as an issue facing UK agriculture than there was 10 to 15 years ago, but there is still a very pronounced need to move beyond the awareness stage to actually encourage planning.

“That struck me as something the industry desperately needs to address.”

Nearly 700 farms across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland took part in the extensive university research, and the findings highlighted the unique approach farmers take to retirement.

Handing down the farm can often be an extremely emotional time for those farmers who have worked hard on the land or with livestock their whole lives, with many clinging on to ownership and the way of life, long after traditional retirement age.

Prof. Lobley said children often find it hard to approach the subject of taking over, and many are not given the keys until they themselves are middle aged or older.

In light of the research, Prof. Lobley said he believed technological innovation in agriculture was key to enticing the next generation of farmers to the industry and could help deal with the shift in payment schemes following the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Sean McCann, chartered financial planner at NFU Mutual, said: “Handing on the farm doesn’t have to mean giving away the ownership of all the assets on day one.

“It can be helpful to think about the management of the business and ownership of the farm as separate issues.

“The farmer could look to hand over more of the day to day management of the business while retaining the ownership of the assets to a later date.”