While the Government's decision to ban live exports by 2023 has been welcomed by animal rights activists, industry groups warn thousands of farmers will be left worse off by the move.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor announced the ban - which will come into effect after a transition period of up to two years - on Wednesday.
The decision was made after a lengthy review process into the controversial practice, with O'Connor saying it was necessary to protect New Zealand's international reputation.
But industry group the Animal Genetics Trade Association (AGTA) says the move is both "morally and practically unjustified" and "will financially devastate many farmers".
"This is an ill-informed, massively consequential decision for the nation, to earn short-term political brownie points from a few activists," AGTA spokesperson David Hayman said on Wednesday.
He said as well as the economic effect on farmers, the ban would end up leading to the premature slaughter of thousands of livestock each year.
"This is an immoral ban against a trade being conducted humanely, with world-leading standards. There is no morality in removing half a billion dollars from our economy and forcing the early deaths of up to 150,000 animals a year."
The move was also criticised by the ACT Party's primary industries spokesperson Mark Cameron, who said the trade represents a critical revenue stream for the rural sector.
"Dairy cows exported live can earn a farmer between $1800 and $2000, but on the local market fetch between $1400 and $1600," Cameron said.
He called the ban "emotive and costly".
Hayman said live animal exports are necessary as an extra source of revenue for farmers to offset lost earnings in bad drought years, and in response to low beef prices and increased compliance costs.
"More than 5000 farmers will be directly worse off. They need options to maximise stock value and reduce wastage," he said.
But animal rights groups said the move would mean thousands of animals no longer have to suffer overseas.
"SAFE has been campaigning on this issue for many years because of our concerns for how animals are treated when they are exported overseas," chief executive Debra Ashton said.
"We're pleased the Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister have listened to the thousands of Kiwis who have spoken out about this issue."
The SPCA said it was "delighted" with the ban, but would have "strongly preferred" a shorter transition period.
"Live export is unacceptable when alternatives, such as transport of semen, are already available and commercially viable," said Andrea Midgen, the organisation's chief executive.
"Enough is enough, and we are relieved that those elected to represent us, have done the right thing. Common sense has prevailed."