Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney has announced a one-week extension to the Imported Fodder Transport Scheme.

The scheme to help farmers affected by the ongoing fodder shortage will now run until Friday 10 May.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Department of Agriculture show a 26% increase in the number of animal deaths on farms in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same figure last year.

The figures show that 106,000 animals died in the period from January to March, compared with 84,000 in the same period in 2012.

Mr Coveney said 300 loads of fodder have been imported and distributed to farmers to feed animals since the scheme began.

Mr Coveney said 3,500 tonnes of hay have been imported, with further significant loads due in the coming days.

A 200-tonne shipment of maize fodder arrived in Dublin Port today.

The shipment, which was organised by Glanbia Co-Op, is the first of a series that will see 3,000 tonnes of the feed being imported from Suffolk in England in the coming days.

The fodder will be distributed to farmers at cost price.

Glanbia Vice Chairman Henry Corbally, who was at Dublin Port when the shipment arrived, said today's fodder will be distributed to farmers mainly in Meath and the northeast.

The Irish Dairy Board has announced it is making a fund of €2m available for dairy farmers hit by the fodder crisis.

The fund will be distributed through 13 dairy co-ops and farmers may apply to them for the cash aid.

Around 17,000 dairy farmers are entitled to apply to the fund. The Irish Dairy Board promotes and markets dairy products from Ireland in 90 countries around the world.

It had a turnover in excess of €2bn in 2012.

The Irish Farmers' Association has set up a €1m fund to help farmers through the fodder crisis.

The fund has been put together by the IFA with the help of five agribusiness firms.

It is designed to help those who fall outside the Government scheme.

It will pay for the shipment of more than 3,000 tonnes of fodder, which will be brought from the northwest of France.

The ship sets sail next Tuesday and is due to arrive in Ireland next Thursday or Friday.

Its contents will then be made available to marts and private merchants at cost price.

Anyone wishing to avail of the fund must contact the IFA in advance.

Any other agribusinesses who wish to support the fund can also contact the association.

AIB has also announced it is making €50m available for loans for farmers and farm suppliers dealing with the current shortages.