As the fodder crisis escalates in areas of heavy soil, truckloads of hay are being sent to farmers in the worst-hit areas of Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Clare and parts of Mayo and Galway.
Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan have been particularly hard hit, with grass growth practically zero on farms. Farmers in Roscommon and Longford are also still queuing daily to receive imported fodder.
The ICMSA has called for a national fodder agency to be set up to help farmers co-ordinate and fund imported and Irish fodder for the coming winter. ICMSA Cork North and East chairman Julian O'Keeffe warned of a "massive deficit" of feed for next winter, particularly in heavy soil areas, adding that "even a fantastic summer won't save us now".
He called for an extension of the fodder import subsidy to cover the transport of imported and local fodder this summer.
"Minister Coveney just doesn't understand the concept of bad ground," he said.
"The Department of Agriculture has been very, very slow to react to this crisis, even though it flagged last autumn.
"We can't get it through to the powers that be how bad things are in certain areas.
"We need solutions and they are firstly to source fodder before this autumn and, secondly, to get funding for it," he continued.
"Farmers are in a state of desperation, the Government is going to have to give us a dig-out. And this is not a case of the poor mouth because lads have put every single bob they have into buying feed for their animals; but they just don't have any more."
Mr O'Keeffe called for a subsidised credit scheme to be made available from the Government through banks, co-ops and merchants.
"Otherwise people won't get through next winter," he warned.
Eddie Downey, co-ordinator of the IFA import scheme, said the first Dutch hay arrived in Ireland yesterday. Some 1,500t of hay has been sourced in Holland, while 2,500t of French hay has been delivered so far and a further 1,200t is set to be landed by tomorrow.
Mr Downey called for the Department transport subsidy to be continued until at least July 1 when Teagasc's national fodder audit will provide an accurate picture of the fodder deficit.
The ICSA has so far imported 40 lorryloads of fodder, equating to 650t, through nine co-ops: Ballinasloe, Castlerea, Roscommon, Drumshanbo, Manorhamilton, Town of Monaghan, Clones, Carrickmacross and Ballyshannon. The association plans to import another 10 loads (170 tonnes) by the end of this week.
Last week, the Farming Independent travelled to meet farmers in west Limerick, north Cork and Kerry who are dealing with the worst effects of the feed and weather crisis.
They told us how they are coping with mounting debts, scarce fodder and appalling ground conditions.