The owners of the Meadow Meats plant in Rathdowney, Co Laois, have warned the facility may close as a result of the ongoing blockade by protesters.

No cattle have been slaughtered at the factory in weeks and it is entirely shut down. 

Staff at the plant were laid off temporarily last week, but the company has said the lay-offs may become permanent.

The facility is an abattoir which slaughters cattle for processing in other facilities.

In a statement released to RTÉ News this evening, the company said that the blockades have raised issues over the long-term viability of the plant. 

Meadow Meats, which is owned by the Dawn Meats Group, has claimed that in recent days 300 local farmers have been in contact wanting to sell more than 10,000 cattle into the abattoir.

A spokesperson for Meadow Meats said: "The current situation is unsustainable and we cannot rule out having to close the business, meaning Laois's only beef factory would not be available to service the local farmer community."

Almost 100 people work at Meadow Meats, which is the largest employer in Rathdowney.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has called on farmers involved in the beef factory dispute to give the agreement reached over last weekend a chance.

His appeal comes in an open letter published tonight.

Minister Creed says the voices of the protesting farmers has been heard and that the agreement was a compromise where nobody got everything they wanted.

He acknowledged that price is a central concern but says legally that could not be discussed.

Minister Creed appealed to farmers to consider what continuing their protest means, arguing the future of the beef sector is in their hands.

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Earlier, the Beef Plan Movement has said some farmers feel they have got nothing from the proposed deal hammered out at beef talks over the weekend.

The agreement, reached after 36 hours of talks over the weekend, withdraws all legal proceedings against farm organisations and individual farmers.

All parties to the agreement agreed to work to end blockades and protests at meat factories. 

Six of the country's largest and longest-established farm organisations are recommending the settlement terms.

However, the group, Independent Farmers of Ireland, set up to represent farmers at the factory gates, said it would neither accept nor reject the settlement proposals.

RTÉ News understands that representatives of the Beef Plan Movement and the Independent Farmers of Ireland have been in direct communication with factory managers at local level around the country in a bid to see if an increase in the base price for beef can be attained this week if the protests come to an end.

Farmers, who had been protesting about beef prices at meat factories around the country, are continuing their blockades because they say the deal does not satisfy their demands.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Chairman of the Beef Plan Movement Hugh Doyle said his organisation was recommending the proposed agreement.

He appealed to people to take a step back and explained the level of disappointment felt by some farmers at the outcome of the talks.

Mr Doyle said he genuinely believes that the deal had something to offer but that it has not had a positive reaction from farmers.

He said farmers feel abandoned and believe talks are "of promises going forward" and they want to see tangible money now.

He said that until the base price is examined, farmers will not be satisfied.

He added that he saw the talks as a starting point, but farmers want to know what the finish point will be.

Farmers continuing to picket outside the Kepak Meat Plant in Drumquin, Ennis, Co Clare, said they wanted a higher base price which did not happen during yesterday's negotiations.

They said they are in it for the long haul and have a Christmas tree decorated on a bale blockading the gates, symbolic of the length of time they are prepared to stay put until they get higher base prices for their cattle.

Read more:
What's the beef between farmers and meat processors?

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A spokesperson for the Independent Farmers of Ireland said he personally believes that the deal had some very good points in it.

However Ger Gough added that there is a trust issue between farmers and meat industry Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, he said farmers are taking a wait and see approach to see if there will be any movement on the base price.

Mr Gough described as "a start", a crack in the 13-month rule that is contained in the deal.

He said he would try and sell the deal to farmers and he thought that they should come off the pickets.

"There's some very good points in it for starting. My view is for them to study it a bit more and look at the detail of it," said Mr Gough.

"There's some very intelligent men there and they have to make up their own minds. We're independent farmers - it's in the name." 

Additional reporting Ciarán Mullooly