An operation has begun at Dublin Airport to cut 220 acres of grass.

The grass is to be made available free of charge to farmers, in an effort to help tackle the fodder crisis.

Cutting began at 3.30pm after airport authorities decided the weather conditions were suitable to begin the four-day operation.

They expect 50 acres per day will be cut and chopped and ready for removal.

Farmers must bring their own trailer to the airport perimeter, which will then be taken in, filled and returned to them.

Meanwhile, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association has called on Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to seek EU funding to help farmers deal with the fodder crisis.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, ICMSA President John Comer said his organisation estimates that the fodder crisis will cost the Irish farming industry over €1bn.

Mr Comer said the industry can no longer deal with the effect of this "catastrophe".

Last summer was the wettest and worst summer on record, which was followed by a very long and very wet winter.

It has resulted in a shortage of grass growing and fodder has had to be imported from other countries to feed livestock.

The ICMSA says the effect of the weather on farming in the past year categorically satisfied any definition of a natural disaster.

It believes farmers are therefore entitled to get support from the EU Solidarity Fund.

Mr Comer also called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to appoint a junior minister at the Department of Agriculture with immediate effect in order to prevent a repeat of this year's crisis.

He said importing fodder from abroad was only "fire brigade action" and did not provide any real solutions for struggling Irish farmers.

Elsewhere, Minister Coveney has been accused of being out of touch with the conditions facing farmers in the west and northwest because of the fodder shortage.

Irish Farmers' Association President John Bryan said Mr Coveney did not seem to understand that the crisis was only beginning for farmers in those regions.

He said the transport subsidy deadline date had to be extended as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, farm advisory group Teagasc has appealed to farmers who have animals dying on their land to take urgent steps to speak to local veterinary staff or Teagasc where they can get advice and assistance.

Gerry Boyle told farmers it was essential that they talk to others about their difficulties in a bid to reduce the number of fatalities.

The owner of one of the largest animal disposal centres in the country told RTÉ News this afternoon that the fatality rate has now reached epidemic levels.

He said in his area alone more than 80 dead cows a day were being collected and dozens of calves were also dying.