Beef farmers are calling on the Government to increase subsidies paid to suckler herd owners, to safeguard the sector and protect against pressures facing the industry.

Hundreds of farmers are expected to attend a meeting in Co Mayo, where possible challenges as a result of the British withdrawal from the EU will be discussed.

The UK accounts for some 40% of all beef exports from Ireland and there are concerns at the impact trade tariffs or a protracted fall in the value of sterling could have.

The Irish Farmers Association says the Government has to play a proactive role in defending the beef sector, which it says is worth € 2.3 billion per year.

The organisation's President, Joe Healy, says investment in the suckler herd would result in increased spending in local communities.

He pointed to a study carried out for the IFA by a UCD academic that shows for each €1 invested there is over €4 in output in the Irish economy.

Mr Healy has also called on the Minister for Agriculture to prioritise live exports in 2017.

He said with a forecast for an additional 100,000 head of cattle in 2017, a strong live export trade is vital for both price competition and market outlets.