Silver Fern Farms' unofficial poll of South Island meat cooperative farmers shows 87 per cent want SFF and Alliance Group to consider a merger but the low response rate undermines the result.

A total of 517 shareholders across the two companies responded to the SFF poll, which would start a process to revive merger talks that failed to take off in 2008.

The low response "was not surprising, as farmers are traditionally apathetic when it comes to voting, said SFF chairman Eoin Garden, in a statement.

"But, based on its (Alliance) board's overly aggressive and negative reaction to the suggestion of an independent evaluation, we don't expect the world to change."

Alliance chairman Owen Poole has said calls for a merger weren't coming from the shed floor based on talks with his farmers. Still, the two meat companies share almost a third of their farmers and supporters for talks have included Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly.

Garden said support for the poll had been dented by "an aggressive push back." Poole says he wasn't consulted on the poll and took a dim view of the tactic.

SFF released the poll questions via the media though it was addressed as an open letter to the shareholders.

"Those farmers who did take the opportunity to express their opinion overwhelmingly supported the proposal to initiate an independent evaluation process," SFF's Garden said.

The proposal is to appoint an independent facilitator to chair a joint evaluation committee to review the potential for a merger while devising a strategic plan for New Zealand meat.