Farmers and members of the IFA have staged a protest at a number of supermarkets in Maynooth over what they say are deep cuts to the prices being paid to them for livestock.

The organisation alleges that some large retailers and meat factories are deliberately keeping the prices paid to farmers low in order to boost their own profits.

IFA Beef Chairman Henry Burns said the latest cuts to cattle prices have left Irish farmers getting €1 less per kg of beef than farmers in the UK, even though the UK is the main market for Irish beef exports.

He said there is now a €370 difference in what is being paid for the same animal in the two jurisdictions.

A spokesperson for the main meat processors in Ireland rejected claims that they are deliberately pushing down prices.

Cormac Healy Director of Meat Industry Ireland said cattle prices have been very strong all year long and even though they have been "adjusted" they are still higher than last year.

He said at one stage this year Irish beef prices rose to 115% of the average EU price which made it difficult to sell beef in some markets.

Even after adjustment the price remains at 105% of the EU average.

Mr Healy said: “The reality is that for a major net exporter such as Ireland, it is not sustainable for our beef price to be so far ahead of many of the markets we are selling into.

Our overall cattle price is still ahead of those in France, Germany, Spain and even Italy.”

The IFA said farmers need to get profitable prices for their cattle because of high production costs and heavy bills following the fodder crisis.