More than 150 workers at a Co Kilkenny meat processing plant have reportedly been temporarily laid off as protests by farmers over beef prices continue.

It is understood that the operative staff at Dawn Meats in Grannagh, south Kilkenny, were given the letters as they left work, with management saying they had no option but to consider temporary layoffs.

At least two other Dawn Meats plants are believed to be similarly affected.

There was no comment from the company, which operates a number of beef plants nationwide, and attempts to contact local management at Grannagh were unsuccessful.

However, according to an industry source, the issue of temporary layoffs has to be examined by meat factories as the protests continue outside up to 20 beef processing operations across the country and those plants run out of livestock to process.

There are about 350 staff in all at the Dawn Meats beef plant in Grannagh.

Trucks carrying refrigerated beef were allowed through the gate of the plant today by protesters, but any trucks carrying live cattle have been turned away.

Attempts have been made, including by Opposition politicians, to establish contact between Meat Industry Ireland and the Beef Plan Movement but nothing concrete is believed to have yet emerged regarding any possible negotiations.

Members of the movement, founded late last year in an attempt to secure better prices for farmers producing beef and selling livestock directly to factories, have been picketing outside several plants since last week.

Trucks carrying cattle were blocked from entering some plants yesterday as the dispute intensified, although it is understood some picket lines included individual farmers and not just Beef Plan members.

MII, which represents many of the country's beef plants, has said it will not negotiate while pickets are in place outside the properties affected.

The industry group says current prices are driven by poor sales in the UK and on the continent.

Minister for Agriculture and Food Michael Creed said he cannot interfere with the price paid to farmers for beef or any other commodity, but has urged all the parties involved to get together and discuss the issues.