There can be few parts of the country that are not touched in some way by beef farming.

After all, there are 6.6 million cattle in the Republic of Ireland and only 4.85 million people. But beef farmers complain that prices are so poor at the moment that they cannot make an economic return from raising cattle.

Urban people might yawn and say "we've heard this all before". And we have. You could even say that farmers have been crying wolf for generations. But maybe this time the wolf has arrived.

Prices are now back to where they were in 2011 and, of course, any farmer who bought cattle in the last few years, with a view to fattening them up for sale, will be sitting on a substantial loss.

Widening it out, the numbers don't lie.

The farm advisory body, Teagasc, does an annual survey on farm incomes. It is robust and reliable.

It shows that beef farmers are earning nothing at all from beef farming. Their annual income is around €12,000, well below the minimum wage and even that money is not earned from selling beef.

The only money coming in, on average, is from subsidies paid directly to the farmer, mostly in the form of the Direct Farm Payment, the money that comes from the European Union.

Farmers say they are raising the beef that we eat for nothing.

A movement of farmers has gathered under the Beef Plan umbrella. They believe that the factories are operating many anti-competitive practices.

They say everyone else makes money out of beef but they don't. They want that to change.

Meat Industry Ireland, the representative body for the processors, dismisses their allegations and says they operate in a market where supply and demand is the overriding reality and prices are down at the moment.

They point to Brexit and an overhang of beef from last year as the reasons for the lower price.

The obituary for beef farming in Ireland has been written many times and it was always wrong, but under the surface, big change is under way.

Around a third of beef farmers are part-time. There are significant numbers who stay in the business for the love of it - often described in patronising terms as "hobby farmers".

But if a business cannot make money out of its core product, there are going to be big problems and potentially big adjustments.

What could that mean? In a normal situation, you would expect farmers to go out of business, to switch to another product or to sell up.

In Irish farming, for a variety of reasons, these are not normal options. Hence the unhappiness of beef farmers at the moment.

They are losing money; the animals they bought a couple of years ago will lose them even more money; they have few options to diversify; prices are showing no sign of recovery.

Oh yeah and there's that thing called Brexit coming up fast. If this price decline has deeply injured the beef farmer, Brexit has the potential to finish many off.