The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that talks will take place on Monday with representatives of the Animal Collectors' Association in a dispute over funding.

A strike at 38 knackeries around the country is now in its fifth day after operators claim their businesses are now at breaking point.

The action means that dead animals are not being collected and processed in the usual manner.

It is estimated around 1,000 animals would typically be handled by knackeries around the country each day.

John De Nash is a farmer in Tulsk, Co Roscommon. One of his animals, a six-month-old calf, died almost a week ago. There are no knackeries open to handle the carcass and he is concerned about the health risk to his family and farm.

The dispute centres on concerns over the assistance provided by the Department of Agriculture to the operators.

The Chairman of the Animal Collectors' Association said small family-run businesses around the country were no longer viable enterprises.

Michael McKeever said the businesses will remain shut until there is some movement from Government.

Gary Rogers runs a yard in the village of Scramoge outside Strokestown. He said most knackeries are small family-run businesses delivering a vital service in the agri sector.

But he said their livelihoods are threatened because they are under severe financial pressure.

Knackery owners say they are frustrated at the Department's failure to address several issues, some of them dating back to 2009.

Those centre on changes to the Fallen Animals Scheme, when funding for the collection of animals was reduced.

The Association claims there has been an 81% reduction in State funding since then.

Around 300,000 dead animals were handled by knackeries around the country last year.

Since 2013, a limit on the distance allowable for travel between knackeries and rendering yards has further complicated the task of operators.

Mr McKeever also said the hide trade had collapsed to the point where "they can't be given away".

Knackeries facilitate BSE testing and deal with the disposal of all dead farm animals.

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture said there are proposals on the table to provide additional supports to knackery owners but the Animal Collectors' Association has said they don’t go far enough.

Talks will resume again in Dublin on Monday in an effort to resolve the dispute.