• Accuracy of predicting milk yield from alternative milk recording schemes

      Berry, Donagh P.; Olori, V. E.; Cromie, A.R.; Veerkamp, R. F.; Rath, M.; Dillon, Pat (Cambridge University Press, 2005-02)
      The effect of reducing the frequency of official milk recording and the number of recorded samples per test-day on the accuracy of predicting daily yield and cumulative 305-day yield was investigated. A control data set consisting of 58 210 primiparous cows with milk test-day records every 4 weeks was used to investigate the influence of reduced milk recording frequencies. The accuracy of prediction of daily yield with one milk sample per test-day was investigated using 41 874 testday records from 683 cows. Results show that five or more test-day records taken at 8-weekly intervals (A8) predicted 305-day yield with a high level of accuracy. Correlations between 305-day yield predicted from 4-weekly recording intervals (A4) and from 8-weekly intervals were 0.99, 0.98 and 0.98 for milk, fat and protein, respectively. The mean error in estimating 305-day yield from the A8 scheme was 6.8 kg (s.d. 191 kg) for milk yield, 0.3 kg (s.d. 10 kg) for fat yield, and −0.3 kg (s.d. 7 kg) for protein yield, compared with the A4 scheme. Milk yield and composition taken during either morning (AM) or evening (PM) milking predicted 24-h yield with a high degree of accuracy. Alternating between AM and PM sampling every 4 weeks predicted 305-day yield with a higher degree of accuracy than either all AM or all PM sampling. Alternate AM-PM recording every 4 weeks and AM + PM recording every 8 weeks produced very similar accuracies in predicting 305-day yield compared with the official AM + PM recording every 4 weeks.
    • Body condition score and live-weight effects on milk production in Irish Holstein-Friesian dairy cows

      Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, Frank; Dillon, Pat (Cambridge University Press, 2007-10)
      The objective of the present study was to quantify the relationships among body condition score (BCS; scale 1 to 5), live weight (WT) and milk production in Irish Holstein-Friesian spring calving dairy cows. Data were from 66 commercial dairy herds during the years 1999 and 2000. The data consisted of up to 9886 lactations with records for BCS or WT at least once pre-calving, or at calving, nadir or 60 days post-calving. Change in BCS and WT was also calculated between time periods. Mixed models with cow included as a random effect were used to quantify the effect of BCS and WT, as well as change in each trait, on milk yield, milk fat concentration and milk protein concentration. Significant and sometimes curvilinear associations were observed among BCS at calving or nadir and milk production. Total 305-day milk yield was greatest in cows calving at a BCS of 4.25 units. However, cows calving at a BCS of 3.50 units produced only 68 kg less milk than cows calving at a BCS of 4.25 units while cows calving at 3.25 or 3.00 BCS units produced a further 50 and 114 kg less, respectively. Cows that lost more condition in early lactation produced more milk of greater fat and protein concentration, although the trend reversed in cows that lost large amounts of condition post-calving. Milk yield increased with WT although the marginal effect decreased as cows got heavier. Milk fat and protein concentration in early lactation also increased with WT pre-calving, calving and nadir, although WT did not significantly affect average lactation milk fat concentration.
    • Comparison of breed of dairy cow under grass-based spring milk production systems

      Buckley, Frank; Walsh, S.; Dillon, Pat (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
      The objective of this study was to investigate the potential differences among different dairy cow breeds across two feeding systems on milk production, udder health, milking characteristics, body weight, body condition score, hormone parameters, ovarian function, survival and overall reproductive efficiency. The breeds investigated included Holstein-Friesian (HF), Montbéliarde (MB), Normande (NM), Norwegian Red (NRF) and Holstein- Friesian × Montbéliarde (MBX) and Holstein- Friesian × Normande (NMX). Selection within the HF breed has, until recently, been predominantly for milk production with little or no direct selection for functional traits other than those correlated with superior type. The MB and the NM have been simultaneously selected for both milk and beef production in the past. The NRF were imported as calves and come from a more balanced total merit index incorporating production and cow functionality since the early 1970s. The dairy cow breeds were grouped into blocks of two within breed groups and randomized across two spring-calving grass-based feeding systems: low concentrate feeding system (LC) and high concentrate feeding system (HC). Those on LC feeding system were offered approximately 530 kg/cow over the total lactation, while those on HC feeding system were offered approximately 1030 kg/cow.
    • Comparison of breed of dairy cow under grass-based spring milk production systems.

      Buckley, Frank; Walsh, S.; Dillon, Pat (Teagasc, 2006-01)
      The objective of this study was to investigate the potential differences among different dairy cow breeds across two feeding systems on milk production, udder health, milking characteristics, body weight, body condition score, hormone parameters, ovarian function, survival and overall reproductive efficiency. The breeds investigated included Holstein-Friesian (HF), Montbéliarde (MB), Normande (NM), Norwegian Red (NRF) and Holstein- Friesian × Montbéliarde (MBX) and Holstein- Friesian × Normande (NMX). Selection within the HF breed has, until recently, been predominantly for milk production with little or no direct selection for functional traits other than those correlated with superior type. The MB and the NM have been simultaneously selected for both milk and beef production in the past. The NRF were imported as calves and come from a more balanced total merit index incorporating production and cow functionality since the early 1970s. The dairy cow breeds were grouped into blocks of two within breed groups and randomized across two spring-calving grass-based feeding systems: low concentrate feeding system (LC) and high concentrate feeding system (HC). Those on LC feeding system were offered approximately 530 kg/cow over the total lactation, while those on HC feeding system were offered approximately 1030 kg/cow. There was no genotype by environment interaction observed for any of the milk production, BCS, BW, udder health, milking characteristics, reproductive performance or feed intake/efficiency parameters investigated. Compared to the MB and NM, all other breeds had higher total lactation milk, fat, protein and lactose yield, with the HF having the highest. Animals on the HC feeding system had higher total lactation milk, fat, protein and lactose yield. Compared to the NRF, SCS was higher for the HF, NM, MBX and NMX breed groups, while SCS of the MB was not different. The NM and MB had lower AMF compared to all breeds. The crossbreds achieved the higher AMF. The NM had the lowest PMF, while that of the crossbreds were higher compared to all breeds. Milking duration was not affected by breed. Differences between breeds for AMF, PMF and MD were not apparent after adjustment for milk yield. Animals offered a HC diet had higher AMF, PMF and MD compared to those on the LC feeding system. Somatic cell score did not differ between the feeding systems. The interaction between breed and milk yield influenced SCS, AMF, PMF and MD thus implying that for each unit increase of milk yield by breed, the response in SCS, AMF, PMF and MD was different for some breeds. The response in SCS was similar for the NRF, MBX and NMX, while MD was similar for the MB and MBX. The effect of one unit increase in daily average milk yield caused a favourable decrease in SCS; however a one unit increase in PMF and MD did not influence SCS. No interactions were observed for breed with any milking characteristic on SCS. The HF had the lowest BCS, the MB and NM the highest, while the NRF, MBX and NMX were intermediate. The NRF had the lowest BW; the NM had the highest while the other breeds were intermediate. The NRF had increased likelihood of SR24, PREG1, PREG42 and FINALPR and greater survival compared to the HF. Both MBX and NMX had shorter CSI and CCI and were more likely to be pregnant at the end of the breeding season, thus had higher survival rates compared to the HF; however heterosis estimates for these traits was not significant, likely due to the small data size. Feed system did not influence reproductive performance of the different breeds. Breed of dairy cow did not influence any of the ovarian parameters studied. Breed of dairy cow did not influence insulin or IGF-1 concentrations at any sampling period. Breed significantly effected gestation length, calf birth weight and calving ease score. The NRF had the shortest gestation, lightest calves and least calving difficulty. Genotype had a significant effect on estimated dry matter intake, being highest with the HF, MBX, NMX and lowest with NM and NRF. Genotype also had a significant effect on yield of milk solids per kg of DMI. The highest yield of milk solids per kg of DMI was achieved with the NRF, HF and MBX. Comparisons between genotypes reveal that estimated residual feed intake estimates were lowest (most favourable) for the NRF, compared to other genotypes with the exception of HF.
    • Comparison of growth curves of three strains of female dairy cattle

      Berry, Donagh P.; Horan, Brendan; Dillon, Pat (Cambridge University Press, 2005-04)
      The objective of the present study was to compare growth curves for live weight (LW) and body size of three strains of female dairy cattle reared under common environments in Ireland. One strain (HP) was selected from a predominantly North-American/European Holstein-Friesian genetic pool selected for high milk production. The second strain (HD) represented a predominantly North-American/European Holstein-Friesian genetic pool selected for high milk production but with greater selection emphasis on functional non-production traits. The third strain (NZ) consisted of New Zealand Holstein-Friesian females of high genetic merit for profitability in New Zealand. The data consisted of 99 animals (33 animals in each strain) with records on LW, length, girth and height from birth to a minimum of 594 days of age. The von Bertalanffy growth function was fitted to each animal's records separately and least-squares analyses were used to investigate the effect of strain on birth LW/body size, parameters of the growth function and average daily gains. Average mature live weight of the HD animals (591 kg) was significantly larger than that of the HP (566 kg) or NZ (543 kg) strain; the HD strain matured more slowly. The HD (134 cm) and HP (135 cm) strains were significantly taller than the NZ (128 cm) strain. Although the data set was relatively small there are indications that dairy females of North-American genetic origin were heavier at birth, grew faster, and were heavier and taller at maturity than dairy females of New Zealand origin.
    • Dairy cattle breeding objectives combining production and non-production traits for pasture based systems in Ireland.

      Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, Frank; Dillon, Pat; Veerkamp, R.F. (Teagasc, 2005-11-01)
      The objectives of this study were: 1) to estimate genetic (co) variances among body condition score, body weight, milk production, linear type traits and fertility, and 2) to investigate the presence of genotype by environment interactions for milk production, body condition score, and body weight, in Irish grass based seasonal calving herds. Genetic parameters were estimated from a potential 8928 primiparous and multiparous Holstein-Friesian cows over two years (1999 and 2000). Heritability estimates for body condition score (BCS) and body weight (BW) were found to be moderate to high; estimates ranged from 0.27 to 0.51 for BCS, and from 0.39 to 0.61 for BW. Heritability estimates for BCS change and BW change at different stages of lactation were all less than 0.11. Heritability for the linear type traits varied from 0.11 to 0.43. Phenotypic and genetic correlations between BCS and BW at the same stage of lactation were all close to 0.50 indicating that approximately 25% of the genetic and phenotypic variation in BW may be attributed to differences in BCS. Genetic correlations between BCS and milk yield tended to be negative (-0.14 to –0.51) and genetic correlations between BW and milk yield were close to zero (-0.07 to 0.09). However, the genetic correlations between BW adjusted for differences in BCS were positive (0.15 to 0.39). Genetic correlations between BCS and the fertility traits investigated were all favourable, indicating that cows with a superior genetic merit for BCS are on average likely to be served sooner, receive less services and have higher pregnancy rates. The genetic correlations between linear type traits and milk yield indicate that selection for milk production has resulted in taller, deeper cows that tend to be more angular and have less body condition. Genetically these cows are predisposed to inferior reproductive efficiency. Moderate genetic correlations were found between some of the linear type traits investigated and somatic cell count. A comparison of BCS, as recorded by Teagasc personnel (scale 1-5) and Holstein herd-book classifiers (scale 1-9) indicated consistency between the two sources. Phenotypic and genetic correlations of 0.54 and 0.86, respectively, were observed between the two measurement sources on the same animals. Genotype by environment interactions, were found for milk yield across different silage quality environments, and for BCS across different herd-year milk yield, concentrate, grazing severity and silage quality environments.
    • Development of an efficient milk production profile of the Irish dairy Industry

      Shalloo, Laurence; Dillon, Pat; Wallace, Michael (Teagasc, 2008-07)
      Fluctuation around milk price will be the biggest factor that the dairy industry will experience over the next number of years. This fluctuation is being driven by fluctuation on the world dairy markets. In the past, when intervention was a much bigger feature of the CAP regime, the fluctuation in world markets had little effect on the EU price. This was because the Intervention system bought product from the market when prices were depressed and placed products on the world market when the price rose. This in effect meant that the CAP regime was having a regulatory effect on the world market as well as the EU markets. An example of the type of fluctuation observed on the world market can be gleamed from the Fonterra milk price in 2006-2007 ($4.50/kg (MS) milk solid) versus 2007-2008 ($7.90/kg MS). This corresponds to a 76% increase in price in 1 year. For the Dairy Industry in Ireland to prosper under these conditions all sectors will be required to be as efficient as possible from the farm, processing and marketing sectors. This report deals with; (1) Milk payment (2) Optimum milk production systems and (3) Seasonality of milk supply. (1) Milk payment systems in Ireland currently do not adequately reward high solids quality milk. Virtually all milk payment systems include a positive constant which reward the production of volume rather than the production of protein and fat kilograms. The A+B-C system of milk payment would adequately reward the production of protein and fat while at the same time correcting for the volume related processing costs. (2) Optimum systems of milk production will be built around the maximization of grass utilization in the future. Grazed grass is the cheapest feed that can be fed to dairy cows. Stocking rates nationally are 1.74cows/Ha around the milking platform and therefore when dairy farms are expanding they should do so by increasing stocking rate. The inclusion of supplementary feeds will reduce profitability for the vast majority of dairy farmers and could only possibly lead to increases in profitability when coupled increases in stocking rate. (3) Grass based systems while substantially reducing costs at farm level result in a seasonal milk supply profile. This results in a reduced capacity utilization of the milk processing facilities as well as restricted product port folio. However the production of Winter milk will lead to significant cost increases at farm level and should only be encouraged if the specific product produced would be sufficient to cover the additional costs associated with over winter production. Within spring calving systems milk payment systems should be used to encourage an efficient milk supply profile with a mean compact calving date of mid February.
    • Effect of autumn/spring nitrogen application date and level on dry matter production and nitrogen efficiency in perennial ryegrass swards

      O'Donovan, Michael; Delaby, L; Stakelum, G; Dillon, Pat (Teagasc, 2004)
      The influence of autumn/spring N-application date and level on grass dry matter (DM) production in spring and on N uptake, recovery and efficiency were examined over 3 years (1998, 1999 and 2000, identified as Year 1, 2 and 3, respectively). Seven N-application dates were investigated in years 2 and 3 while four application dates were investigated in Year 1. The application dates were 21 October (T1), 11 November (T2), 2 December (T3), 23 December (T4), 12 January (T5), 3 February (T6) and 23 February (T7). Three N-application rates (kg N/ha) were used: 30 (N30), 60 (N60) and 90 (N90) plus a zero-N control (N0). Herbage DM yields were determined on: 18 March (H1) and 8 April (H2). Two herbage masses (HM) (40 mm above ground level) at initial Napplication date were investigated: a high HM (HHM) of 500 kg DM/ha and a low HM (LHM) of 100 kg DM/ha. The HM at initial N-application date in Year 1 was HHM, in Year 2 LHM and in Year 3 both HHM and LHM. There was a significant effect of Year (P<0.001), HM (P<0.001), N-application date (P<0.001) and N level (P<0.001) on DM production at both H1 and H2. At H1 there was a significant interaction between N-application date and level for DM production. N-application date had a significant (P<0.001) effect on N recovery at both H1 and H2. The highest N recovery rate at the two harvest dates was at T5, while the lowest was at T1 and T2. At H1 and H2 there was a significant effect (P<0.001) of application date on response to applied N. The responses were 7.5, 8.0, 8.3, 12.0, 15.7, 7.3 and 5.6 (kg DM/kg N) (s.e. 1.88) for T1 to T7,respectively, at H1, while the corresponding values at H2 were 10.3, 8.7, 6.1, 15.2, 17.6,11.4 and 15.1 (s.e. 1.88). At H2 the response to applied N was 15.6, 11.5 and 9.1 (kg DM/kg N) for N30, N60 and N90, respectively (P<0.05). Regression analysis indicated that highest DM production was achieved with T5 for both H1 and H2 harvest dates, while the lowest responses were associated with T1, T2 and T3 application dates.
    • Effect of Genetic Merit for Milk Production, Dairy Cow Breed and Pre-Calving Feeding on Reproductive Physiology and Performance.

      Mee, John F; Snijders, S.M.E.; Dillon, Pat (Teagasc, 2000-10-01)
      The overall objective of this project was to determine, following four experiments, the effects of genetic merit for milk production, dairy cow breed and prepartum feeding on reproductive physiology and performance. In the present experiments, the high proportion of Holstein- Friesian genes played a more important role in reducing reproductive performance than milk production. Significant breed differences in reproductive performance were detected.
    • The effect of grazing pressure on rotationally grazed pastures in spring/early summer on subsequent sward characteristics

      Stakelum, G.; Dillon, Pat (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2007)
      Two experiments (E1 and E2) were carried out to examine the effect of grazing pressure (GP) in the early part of the grazing season on subsequent sward composition. Three GP levels, equating to 6.35, 4.24 and 3.53 cows/ha in E1, and 6.06, 5.05 and 4.03 cows/ha in E2, were used. The GP treatments were applied between April and July in E1, and April and June in E2. As GP decreased different swards, termed high (HQ), medium (MQ) and low (LQ) quality, were created. The post-grazing sward heights at the end of the GP periods were 6.6, 10.5 and 14.6 (s.e. 0.78) cm in E1, and 5.9, 8.8 and 11.4 (s.e. 0.39) cm in E2, for HQ, MQ and low LQ, respectively. Organic matter digestibility coefficients for herbage from the HQ, MQ and LQ swards during the subsequent grazing cycles averaged 0.770, 0.729 and 0.702 (s.e. 0.0055) in E1, and 0.761, 0.731 and 0.711 (s.e. 0.0038) in E2, respectively. Average live leaf proportions of the HQ, MQ and LQ swards were 0.583, 0.427 and 0.329 (s.e. 0.0193) in E1, and 0.600, 0.474 and 0.362 (s.e. 0.0155) in E2, respectively. GP had a significant effect on the proportion of grass area categorised as short grass (SG). The proportions of SG area in HQ, MQ and LQ were 0.711, 0.579 and 0.445 (s.e. 0.0106), respectively, in E1, and 0.700, 0.556 and 0.441 (s.e. 0.0133), respectively, in E2. Pre-grazing herbage mass (dry matter above 45 mm) was 2,065, 2,736 and 3,700 (s.e. 144.1) kg/ha for HQ, MQ and LQ, respectively, in E1 and 2,688, 3,735 and 4,722 (s.e. 145.0) kg/ha for HQ, MQ and LQ, respectively, in E2. The results show the importance of early season grazing pressure in creating a leafy high-digestibility sward for the remainder of the grazing season.
    • The effect of grazing pressure on rotationally grazed pastures in spring/early summer on the performance of dairy cows in the summer/autumn period

      Stakelum, G.; Dillon, Pat (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2007)
      Two experiments (E1 and E2) were carried out to examine the effects of sward type (ST) on dairy cow performance. Applying grazing pressures (GP) in spring/early summer of 6.35, 4.24 and 3.53 cows/ha in E1, and 6.06, 5.05 and 4.03 cows/ha in E2, created the different ST. From summer to autumn, two stocking rates (SR) were applied to each sward, i.e., high (HR) and low (LR). As GP was reduced, the swards were characterised by progressively higher herbage mass of lower organic matter digestibility (OMD) and live leaf (LL) proportion, termed high (HQ), medium (MQ) and low (LQ) quality. There was no interaction between ST and SR for any animal performance variables except for grazing time. Mean diet OMD was 0.816, 0.803 and 0.794 (s.e. 0.0029) in E1, and 0.793, 0.780 and 0.772 (s.e. 0.0021) in E2, for HQ, MQ and LQ, respectively. The corresponding values for LL were 0.785, 0.740 and 0.709 (s.e. 0.0121) in E1, and 0.825, 0.790 and 0.759 (s.e. 0.0095) in E2. Milk yield per cow was 13.2, 12.2 and 10.6 (s.e. 0.55) kg in E1, and 18.4, 17.5 and 16.2 (s.e. 0.32) kg in E2, for HQ, MQ and LQ, respectively. Milk yields were 11.1 and 12.9 (s.e. 0.46) kg in E1, and 16.4 and 18.3 (s.e. 0.26) kg in E2, for HR and LR, respectively. There was no effect of ST or SR on milk composition or body weight gain. Herbage organic matter intake was 12.8, 12.5 and 11.1 (s.e. 0.28) kg in E2, for HQ, MQ and LQ, respectively. The corresponding values were 11.4 and 12.9 (s.e. 0.23) kg for HR and LR, respectively. The results show that milk yield of springcalving dairy cows is higher in summer when high rather than low stocking rates are applied in spring/early summer. The increased milk production is attributed to higher intake of herbage of higher nutritive value.
    • The effect of herbage mass and allowance on herbage intake, diet composition and ingestive behaviour of dairy cows

      Stakelum, G; Dillon, Pat (Teagasc, 2004)
      An experiment was conducted to examine the effects of herbage mass [HM, based on regrowth intervals of 35 (T) and 21 (S) days] and herbage allowance [HA, 20.2 (H) and 12.7 (L) kg organic matter (OM)/cow] on herbage OM intake (OMI), dietary composition and ingestive behaviour of dairy cows. Four groups of three cows each were used in a 4 × 4 greco-latin square design along with four oesophageal-fistulated cows. The treatment periods were 7 days and the squares (SQ) were repeated three times in a balanced way. The experiment was conducted from 11 April to 3 July 1986. The HM (organic matter) above 3 cm was 3064, 3472 and 3515 kg/ha for T and 2395, 1113 and 2396 kg/ha (s.e. 94) for S, for SQ 1 to 3, respectively. Organic matter digestibility (OMD) was 842, 799 and 778 g/kg for T, and 851, 842 and 804 g/kg for S (s.e. 0.9), for SQ 1 to 3, respectively. Sward height (cm) after grazing was 8.5 and 7.6 for T and S, and 9.6 and 6.5 for H and L (s.e. 0.18), respectively. OMI was 15.2, 14.8 and 15.2 kg for TH, 12.3, 11.9 and 10.7 kg for TL, 15.8, 14.8 and 14.5 kg for SH and 11.9, 11.1 and 11.2kg for SL (s.e. 0.24), for SQ 1 to 3, respectively. The OMD of the diet was closely related to proportion of live leaf in the diet and sward OMD. Average biting rate increased with decreasing HM (R2 0.65). Grazing time was 8.93, 9.11 and 9.06 h for TH, 8.13, 7.96 and 7.91 h for TL, 8.96, 9.59 and 9.29 h for SH and 8.56, 9.36 and 8.52 h for SL (s.e. 0.155), for SQ 1 to 3, respectively. Multiple regression analysis showed that OMI was significantly related to HM (+0.48 kg/t), OMD of the sward (+0.18 kg per 10 g/kg) and pre-experimental milk yield (+0.37 kg/kg) (R2 0.89). The increase in OMI with potential milk yield, as indicated by pre-experimental yield, accounted for 0.80 of the supplementary energy requirements.
    • The effect of Holstein-Friesian genotype and feeding system on selected performance parameters of dairy cows on grass-based systems of milk production in Ireland

      Dillon, Pat; O’Connor, Paula M.; McCarthy, S.; Shalloo, Laurence; Linnane, M.; Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, James F.; Mee, John F; Horan, Brendan (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
      The overall objective of this project was to assess, the effect of strain of Holstein-Friesian dairy cow, pasture-based feed system (FS) and their interaction on animal performance in terms of milk productivity and lactation profile, body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS), feed intake and energy balance (EB), reproductive performance and overall economic profitability.
    • The effect of Holstein-Friesian genotype and feeding system on selected performance parameters of dairy cows on grass-based systems of milk production in Ireland.

      Dillon, Pat; O'Connor, P.; McCarthy, S.; Shalloo, Laurence; Linnane, M.; Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, Frank; Mee, John F; Horan, Brendan (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
      The overall objective of this project was to assess, the effect of strain of Holstein-Friesian dairy cow, pasture-based feed system (FS) and their interaction on animal performance in terms of milk productivity and lactation profile, body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS), feed intake and energy balance (EB), reproductive performance and overall economic profitability.
    • The Effect of Various Pasture-based Systems of Milk Production on Animal Performance in the Northeast Region of Ireland

      Doherty, J.; Kelly, F.; Cahill, E.; Horan, Brendan; Shalloo, Laurence; Dillon, Pat (Teagasc, 2005-01-01)
      The potential of Irish soils to grow grass throughout the year and success in utilizing grass are key factors affecting output and profitability of dairy production systems (Shalloo et al., 2004). In the Northeast region of Ireland, the potential grazing season is shortened due to impeded land drainage, topography, high rainfall and northerly aspect. The main focus of the Ballyhaise research programme is to develop more sustainable production systems suitable to the limitations of the region with a specific focus on grass growth and utilization. Progress in these technologies will improve the competitiveness of dairying in the Northeast region. We are also now faced with a new economic environment with market forecasts predicting a steady decline in dairy product prices for Irish dairy farmers while input prices continue to increase. It has been shown from previous studies that dairy farmers need to expand and/or increase the efficiency of their dairy operation to maintain their real farm incomes over the coming years (Breen and Hennessey, 2003). It is likely that land purchase price will continue to be high in future years. Firstly, dairy farmers can continue at their current level of production and efficiency, and suffer a decline in farm profit as milk price falls. It is likely that greater amounts of milk quota will become available in the coming years; therefore many dairy farmers will have the option to increase production. Expansion opportunities will be limited by the key constraints such as labour supply and cost, capital cost, milk quota availability and price and availability of land around the milking parlour. Labour efficient work practices will have to be adopted on farms to allow one operator to manage a greater number of cows. The objective of this experiment was to examine the effect of two divergent pasture-based systems of milk production on animal performance over a two-year period and to subsequently describe the optimum system for dairy farmers in the Northeast region both now and into the future.
    • An Evaluation of High Genetic Merit Cows Using Forage and Pasture-based Systems.

      Dillon, Pat; Buckley, Frank (Teagasc, 1999-09-01)
      The rate of genetic improvement in Ireland up until the mid-80’s was low (approx. 0.5% per year) compared to North America where genetic merit for milk production was increasing by 1.5% per year (Funk, 1993). Since 1985 the rate of genetic improvement increased markedly to about 1.5% per year in 1992 (Coffey, 1992). This high rate of genetic progress has mostly been achieved through the importation of North American and European genetics. The relative merit of these sires has been obtained from the performance of their progeny in systems of milk production which differ greatly from those operated in Ireland. The term “high genetic index” (HGI) is used to describe a cow, which as a result of selection, is generally predisposed to produce significantly more milk than a cow of lower merit status. Studies from New Zealand have shown that cows of high “genetic index” at pasture, produce more milk (20 to 40%), consume more herbage (5 to 20%), were more efficient convertors of food into milk (10 to 15%) than lower merit cows (Holmes, 1988). However, these “high” genetic index cows would be considered “low” when compared to present-day genetics. Recent results from Langhill (Veerkamp et al., 1994) have shown that increasing genetic index results in major increases in feed efficiency, reflecting increases in milk yield with cows fed indoors on silage/concentrate diets. There is little information available on the performance of present-day HGI dairy cows, on seasonal calving, grass-based systems of milk production
    • Genetic relationships among linear type traits, milk yield, body weight, fertility and somatic cell count in primiparous dairy cows

      Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, Frank; Dillon, Pat; Evans, Ross D; Veerkamp, R. F. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2004)
      Phenotypic and genetic (co)variances among type traits, milk yield, body weight, fertility and somatic cell count were estimated. The data analysed included 3,058 primiparous spring-calving Holstein-Friesian cows from 80 farms throughout the south of Ireland. Heritability estimates for the type traits varied from 0.11 to 0.43. Genetic correlations among some type traits were very strong and may indicate the possibility of reducing the number of traits assessed on each animal; the genetic correlation between angularity and body condition score was –0.84. Genetic correlations between all type traits (except body condition score, udder depth and teat length) and milk yield were positive and ranged from 0.08 to 0.69. The possibility of selecting for body weight may be achievable within a national progeny-testing programme using type traits within a selection index. Moderate to strong genetic correlations existed between some type traits and the various fertility measures and somatic cell count indicating the opportunity of indirect selection for improved fertility and health of animals using type traits within a selection index; however, the standard errors of some of the genetic correlations were large and should thus be treated with caution. Genetically taller, wider, deeper, more angular cows with tighter, stronger, shallower udders were predisposed to have inferior pregnancy rates to first service and require more services.
    • Genetic relationships among linear type traits, milk yield, body weight, fertility and somatic cell count in primiparous dairy cows

      Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, Frank; Dillon, Pat; Evans, Ross D; Veerkamp, Roel F (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2004)
      Phenotypic and genetic (co)variances among type traits, milk yield, body weight, fertility and somatic cell count were estimated. The data analysed included 3,058 primiparous spring-calving Holstein-Friesian cows from 80 farms throughout the south of Ireland. Heritability estimates for the type traits varied from 0.11 to 0.43. Genetic correlations among some type traits were very strong and may indicate the possibility of reducing the number of traits assessed on each animal; the genetic correlation between angularity and body condition score was –0.84. Genetic correlations between all type traits (except body condition score, udder depth and teat length) and milk yield were positive and ranged from 0.08 to 0.69. The possibility of selecting for body weight may be achievable within a national progeny-testing programme using type traits within a selection index. Moderate to strong genetic correlations existed between some type traits and the various fertility measures and somatic cell count indicating the opportunity of indirect selection for improved fertility and health of animals using type traits within a selection index; however, the standard errors of some of the genetic correlations were large and should thus be treated with caution. Genetically taller, wider, deeper, more angular cows with tighter, stronger, shallower udders were predisposed to have inferior pregnancy rates to first service and require more services.
    • Implementing biosecurity measures on dairy farms in Ireland

      Sayers, Riona; Sayers, Gearoid; Mee, John F; Good, M.; Bermingham, Mairead L; Grant, Jim; Dillon, Pat (Elsevier, 2012-12-29)
      Dairy farms in Ireland are expanding in preparation for a new era of unrestricted milk production with the elimination of the European Union (EU) production quotas in 2015. Countries experiencing a changing agricultural demographic, including farm expansion, can benefit from documenting the implementation of on-farm biosecurity. The objectives of this study were to document and describe influences on biosecurity practices and related opinions on dairy farms. A representative response rate of 64% was achieved to a nationwide telesurvey of farmers. A 20% discrepancy was found between self-declared and truly ‘closed’ herds indicating a lack of understanding of the closed herd concept. Although >72% of farmers surveyed considered biosecurity to be important, 53% stated that a lack of information might prevent them from improving their biosecurity. Logistic regression highlighted regional, age, and farm-size related differences in biosecurity practices and opinions towards its implementation. Farmers in the most dairy cattle dense region were three times more likely to quarantine purchased stock than were their equivalents in regions where dairy production was less intense (P = 0.012). Younger farmers in general were over twice as likely as middle-aged farmers to implement biosecurity guidelines (P = 0.026). The owners of large enterprises were almost five times more likely to join a voluntary animal health scheme (P = 0.003), and were over three times more likely to pay a premium price for health accredited animals (P = 0.02) than were those farming small holdings. The baseline data recorded in this survey will form the basis for more detailed sociological and demographic research which will facilitate the targeting of future training of the farming community in biosecurity.
    • Insemination factors affecting the conception rate in seasonal calving Holstein-Friesian cows

      Buckley, Frank; Mee, John F; O'Sullivan, Kathleen; Evans, Ross D; Berry, Donagh P.; Dillon, Pat (EDP Sciences, 2003-11)
      Differences in conception rate to first service between artificial inseminations (AI) carried out by commercial AI operators (CAI) or do-it-yourself operators (DIY), between natural service (NAT) and AI, between different AI sires, and between fresh and frozen-thawed semen, on Irish commercial dairy farms, were studied using logistic regression. The study comprised 12 933 potential first inseminations from 77 spring-calving dairy herds. The data were recorded during 1999 and 2000. Amongst the total, 4 394 cows had repeated records across the two years. Adjustment variables included: herd, year, parity, calving period, calving to service interval, herd size, proportion of North American Holstein-Friesian genes, peak milk yield, semen fresh or frozen-thawed status, AI sire and a cow history variable to account for the correlation structure that may exist between performance records of cows present in both years of the study. Interactions of interest were tested but were non-significant. No significant association was observed between the category of AI operator and the likelihood of conception rate to first service (PREG1). The variation in PREG1 observed within the category of operator (CAI and DIY) was investigated using the Levene test for homogeneity of variance. There was no difference between the level of variation observed within CAI and DIY operators. There were significant differences in the likelihood of PREG1 between different AI sires. Amongst the 40 most commonly used AI sires, 3 sires had a lower likelihood of PREG1 (P < 0.05) when compared to the reference AI sire (sire with PREG1 similar to the mean of the group). There was a tendency for a reduced likelihood of PREG1 with the use of fresh semen compared to frozen-thawed semen ( , P = 0.067). Amongst the adjustment variables in the model, those significantly associated with the likelihood of PREG1 included the herd, calving period, calving to first service interval and peak milk yield. No significant difference in the likelihood of PREG1 was observed between AI and NAT.