• Adding value to cull cow beef

      O'Donovan, Michael; Minchin, William; Buckley, Frank; Kenny, David; Shalloo, Laurence (Teagasc, 2009-08-01)
      This project addressed the prospects of increasing the value of cull cow beef and examined the potential of a number of different management and dietary strategies. In Ireland, the national cow herd contributes 350,000 animals to total beef production annually, which represents 22% of all cattle slaughtered (DAF, 2007). A dominant feature of beef production in Ireland is the disposal of cows from the dairy and beef industries, the time of year at which culling occurs influences the number of cows available for slaughter. Suitability of a cow for slaughter is generally not a consideration for dairy or beef farmers.
    • Adding value to milk by increasing its protein and CLA contents

      Murphy, J.J.; Stanton, Catherine; O'Donovan, Michael; Kavanagh, S.; Maher, J.; Patton, Joe; Mohammed, Riaz (Teagasc, 2008-08-01)
      The mid-summer milk protein study was undertaken on 34 commercial dairy farms in 2005 to evaluate the influence of dietary and management variables on milk protein content in mid-season. Data on grass composition, genetic merit of the herds and milk protein content were collected and analysed by multiple regression. Both calving date and genetic merit for milk protein content were significantly associated with milk protein content and were used as adjustment factors when evaluating the association between measures of grass quality and milk protein content. Milk protein content was associated with grass OMD (P = 0.04) and NDF content (P = 0.02) but not with CP content (P = 0.80). It is concluded that herds calving earlier, with a greater genetic merit for milk protein content and consuming better quality pasture would have greater milk protein contents in mid-season.
    • Adding value to milk by increasing its protein and CLA contents.

      Murphy, J.J.; Stanton, Catherine; O'Donovan, Michael; Kavanagh, S.; Maher, J.; Patton, J.; Mohammed, R. (Teagasc, 2008-08-01)
      Five experiments were undertaken in this project; one on mid-summer milk protein and four on milk CLA content. Thus the two main objectives of this project were to determine the factors associated with milk protein concentration in mid-summer and to investigate potential further strategies to increase the CLA content of pasture produced milk.
    • Capturing the economic benefit of Lolium perenne cultivar performance

      McEvoy, M.; O'Donovan, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      Economic values were calculated for grass traits of economic importance in Irish grass-based ruminant production systems. Traits considered were those that had the greatest potential to influence the profitability of a grazing system. These were: grass dry matter (DM) yield in spring, mid-season and autumn, grass quality (dry matter digestibility; DMD), 1st and 2nd cut silage DM yield and sward persistency. The Moorepark Dairy Systems Model was used to simulate a dairy farm. Economic values were calculated by simulating the effect of a unit change in the trait of interest while holding all other traits constant. The base scenario involved a fixed herd size and land area (40 ha), and an annual DM yield of 13 t/ha. The economic values generated under the base scenario were: € 0.152/kg for DM yield in spring, € 0.030/kg for DM yield in mid-season and € 0.103/kg for DM yield in autumn; € 0.001, € 0.008, € 0.010, € 0.009, € 0.008 and € 0.006 per 1 g/kg change in DMD for the months of April to September, respectively; € 0.03/kg for 1st cut silage DM yield, € 0.02/kg for 2nd cut silage DM yield; and − € 4.961 for a 1 percent reduction in persistency. Alternative scenarios were examined to determine the sensitivity of the economic values to changes in annual DM yield, sward utilisation and a scenario where silage production was the focus of the system. The economic values were used to calculate a total merit index for each of 20 perennial ryegrass cultivars based on production data from a 3 year plot study. The rank correlation between the merit index values for the cultivars under the base scenario and the scenario involving a reduction in herbage utilisation was 1.0, while that with the scenario involving reduced annual DM yield was 0.94. It is concluded that the total merit index can be used to identify cultivars that can generate the greatest economic contribution to a grass-based production system, regardless of system or intensity of grass production.
    • The economics of reseeding on a dairy farm

      Shalloo, Laurence; Creighton, P.; O'Donovan, Michael (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      Herbage production and utilization on Irish dairy farms is well below its potential. A number of factors influence herbage production and utilization, not least the level of annual reseeding (introduction of a new grass ley) on the farm. The potential farm performance is reduced by old permanent pasture due to the combined effects of reduced out-of-season herbage production and lower overall herbage yield when compared to perennial ryegrass. Based on the sales of grass seed, it is estimated that approximately 2% of the land area on dairy farms in Ireland is reseeded annually. This has created a situation where the overall percentage of perennial ryegrass in sward is low. The objective of the present study was to investigate the economic benefits of reseeding through simulating the consequences of reseeding different proportions of the farm on an annual basis. Four levels of an annual reseeding programme were evaluated: 1%, 5%, 10% and 15% of the farm reseeded annually; evaluated at three milk prices (20 c/L, 27c/L and 33 c/L). Increasing the level of reseeding resulted in an increase in total and seasonal herbage production and, when accompanied by an increased stocking rate, increased herbage utilization. At a milk price of 27 c/L, farm profitability was €20 764, €24 794, €30 073 and €33 515 on a 40 ha farm when 1%, 5%, 10% and 15%, respectively, of the farm was reseeded annually. Irrespective of milk price, increasing the level of reseeding had a positive effect on profitability and the highest gain was achieved at the highest milk price. Sensitivity analysis showed that sward persistency and, to a lesser extent, herbage utilization had significant effects on the benefit from reseeding.
    • 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.
    • The effect of different levels of spring grass supply and stocking rate on the performance and intake of cows in early lactation

      O'Donovan, Michael; McEvoy, Mary; Kennedy, Emer; Delaby, Luc; Murphy, John (Teagasc, 2008-11-01)
      Grazed herbage can supply nutrients to dairy cows at a lower cost than alternative feeds (Shalloo et al., 2004). Therefore, the objective of pasture-based systems must be to maximize the proportion of grazed grass in the diet of the dairy cow (Dillon et al., 2005). The extension of the grazing season into the early spring period can be facilitated by ceasing grazing of pastures earlier in autumn which allows grass to accumulate, thereby ensuring an adequate herbage supply in early spring when animal demand exceeds grass growth/supply (O’Donovan, 2000). Grazing pastures in early spring has previously been shown to increase herbage utilization and condition swards for subsequent grazing rotations (O’Donovan et al., 2004; Kennedy et al., 2006).
    • The effect of grass genotype and spring management on the nutritive value of mid-summer ryegrass swards

      O'Donovan, Michael; Hurley, Grainne; Gilliland, Trevor (Teagasc, 2008-07-01)
      The objective of this project was to investigate the environmental, morphological and management factors that control reproductive initiation and development in Lolium perenne L. (perennial ryegrass) and their influence on mid-season sward quality. These factors were assessed on eight perennial ryegrass cultivars through spaced plant and plot studies. The first part of this project determined the effects of meteorological conditions and latitude on reproductive initiation and ear emergence of cultivars over two consecutive years. It was concluded that the critical day length requirement for reproductive initiation varies between perennial ryegrass cultivars and is independent of latitude and the normal range of conditions. Using this information a strong correlation (r2 = 0.94) was found between the critical day length for ear initiation and the ten year standardised ear emergence dates of the cultivars. This correlation was sufficiently robust to predict the critical initiation date for any perennial ryegrass cultivar on a UK recommended list or on the EU common catalogue by using their heading dates from the UK Plant Breeders Rights trials at Crossnacreevy. Large variation was observed for secondary initiation and re-heading between cultivars of similar and varying maturity, which is a major factor reducing mid-season sward quality. The propensity for initiation of re-heading was strongly influenced by the severity of defoliation (intense to very lax), but there was also evidence to suggest that critical day length post-solstice, may determine the latest date when further reproductive initiation could occur. Differences in plant growth modes were clearly evident as the sward structure, plant morphology and nutritive compositions differed significantly between cultivars during the mid-season. Defoliation management also significantly affected mid-season sward structure, morphology and nutritive composition. While the effect of defoliation height on the sward physical and chemical compositions was inconclusive, an intensive (30 mm) defoliation resulted in plants returning to a vegetative growth mode earlier compared to a lax (60 mm) defoliation treatment. It was observed that defoliation at a critical growth stage can significantly affect subsequent sward structures. Delaying initial spring defoliation resulted in a greater leaf proportion and swards of greater herbage quality in the plot study. This study, therefore, established the need for more detailed evaluation of cultivars by national testing authorities to allow farmers to select cultivars for grazing use that will optimise animal intake and performance.
    • Evaluation of fermented whole crop wheat, urea-treated processed whole crop wheat and maize silage for dairy cows

      Murphy, J.J.; Burke, F.; Kavanagh, S.; O'Donovan, Michael; Mulligan, F.J. (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
      There has been increased interest in and increased usage of forages other than grass silage for feeding dairy cows during the winter period. This has arisen because of the inconsistency in making good quality grass silage and the low intake characteristics of this feed. The main objective of this project was to evaluate the effects on dairy cow intake and performance of offering fermented whole crop wheat (WCW) silage, urea-treated processed WCW and maize silage in mixtures with grass silage compared with grass silage alone. The value of these feeds as supplements to grazed grass in the Autumn for late lactation spring calving cows and their effect on dietary nitrogen (N) utilisation for milk protein production were also investigated. The first two experiments evaluated the effects of including 67% of the forage mixture on a dry matter (DM) basis as fermented WCW, urea-treated processed WCW (also known as “Alkalage”) or maize silage in comparison to grass silage alone in the diet of autumn calving cows. The fermented WCW and urea-treated processed WCW were harvested at a stubble height of approximately 20 cm. Sixty and 95% of the grain was milled/cracked in the urea-treated processed WCW in experiments 1 and 2, respectively. Forages were supplemented with concentrates of varying crude protein (CP) concentrations so as to maintain a similar CP concentration in the total dietary dry matter across treatments. In both experiments all the feeds were well preserved. The DM (g/kg) and starch contents (g/kg DM) in the fermented WCW, urea-treated processed WCW and maize silage in experiments 1 were 406 and 282, 733 and 324, 221 and 140 and in experiment 2 were 370 and 323, 763 and 341 and 302 and 324, respectively. Results from both experiments were similar. The three forage mixtures resulted in greater DM intake and greater fat plus protein production than grass silage. The largest effect on intake was obtained with the urea-treated processed WCW which probably reflected the greater DM content of this forage mixture compared with the others. Milk protein content was generally similar across the three forage mixtures and greater than on grass silage as the sole forage. In the third experiment short-straw urea-treated processed WCW (harvested at a stubble height of 35 cm) was evaluated in comparison to the fermented WCW (harvested at a stubble height of 20 cm), maize silage and grass silage. The DM (g/kg) and starch (g/kg DM) contents in the fermented WCW, urea-treated processed WCW and maize silage were 389 and 316, 795 and 382 and 346 and 301, respectively. Fifty nine percent of the grain was cracked/processed in the urea-treated processed UP-WCW .Level of inclusion of forages in the diets was the same as in the first two experiments and total dietary CP was again maintained at a similar concentration across treatments by offering concentrates of varying CP concentrations. The higher harvesting height of the urea-treated processed WCW resulted in a greater starch concentration in this feed in comparison to the first two experiments. The results however were very similar to those obtained in the first two experiments with the forage mixtures again increasing DM intake and fat plus protein yield. Inclusion of the short-straw urea-treated processed WCW did not result in greater fat plus protein production compared with the inclusion of fermented WCW or maize silage. The greatest efficiency of conversion of dietary nitrogen (N) to milk N was achieved with the maize silage mixture and the least efficiency with the urea-treated process WCW mixture. In experiment 4 the nutritive value of fermented WCW, urea-treated processed WCW and maize silage were evaluated in comparison to a concentrate as supplements to grazed grass for spring calving cows in the autumn. A treatment with a high grass allowance of 24 kgDM (> 4 cm)/cow per day was also included while the grass allowance on the supplemented treatments was restricted to 17 kgDM (> 4 cm)/cow per day. All the supplemented treatments and the high grass allowance treatment gave greater milk yields than the unsupplemented restricted grass treatment. The concentrate supplement resulted in the greatest solids corrected milk yield and this was greater than any of the forage supplemented treatments which were not significantly different from one another. In the final experiment the output of N in milk, urine and faeces was measured when grass silage, fermented WCW, urea-treated processed WCW and maize silage were fed as the sole forages plus 6 kg of a concentrate containing 338 g crude protein/kg DM. The proportion of consumed N excreted in urine and faeces was greatest on grass silage and urea-treated processed WCW with fermented WCW and maize silage resulting in the greatest proportion of consumed N being excreted in milk. Overall, the project demonstrated that including either type of WCW or maize silage with grass silage increased fat plus protein production and protein concentration to a similar extent compared to grass silage as the sole forage. All three forages increased DM intake with the greatest increase observed with urea-treated processed WCW. Because of this greater intake resulting in similar fat plus protein production conversion of dietary DM to milk solids was less efficient on urea-treated processed WCW based diets than on fermented WCW or maize silage based diets. Grass silage and urea-treated processed WCW based diets were least N efficient with less dietary N being incorporated into milk N than on fermented WCW or maize silage based diets. Comparing the responses on the forage mixtures relative to one another and to grass silage across experiments 1 to 3 indicates that neither degree of grain processing or harvesting height (within the ranges studied here) are of substantial importance in determining the nutritive value of urea-treated processed WCW. All of the three alternative forages gave similar solids corrected milk yield responses when used as buffer feeds for spring calved cows at pasture in the autumn but these responses were less than 50% of the response to a concentrate supplement.
    • Gastrointestinal tract size, total-tract digestibility, and rumen microflora in different dairy cow genotypes

      Beecher, Marion; Buckley, Frank; Waters, Sinead M.; Boland, T. M.; Enriquez-Hidalgo, D.; Deighton, M. H.; O'Donovan, Michael; Lewis, Eva (Elsevier Inc and American Dairy Science Association, 2014-04-03)
      The superior milk production efficiency of Jersey (JE) and Jersey × Holstein-Friesian (JE × HF) cows compared with Holstein-Friesian (HF) has been widely published. The biological differences among dairy cow genotypes, which could contribute to the milk production efficiency differences, have not been as widely studied however. A series of component studies were conducted using cows sourced from a longer-term genotype comparison study (JE, JE × HF, and HF). The objectives were to (1) determine if differences exist among genotypes regarding gastrointestinal tract (GIT) weight, (2) assess and quantify whether the genotypes tested differ in their ability to digest perennial ryegrass, and (3) examine the relative abundance of specific rumen microbial populations potentially relating to feed digestibility. Over 3 yr, the GIT weight was obtained from 33 HF, 35 JE, and 27 JE × HF nonlactating cows postslaughter. During the dry period the cows were offered a perennial ryegrass silage diet at maintenance level. The unadjusted GIT weight was heavier for the HF than for JE and JE × HF. When expressed as a proportion of body weight (BW), JE and JE × HF had a heavier GIT weight than HF. In vivo digestibility was evaluated on 16 each of JE, JE × HF, and HF lactating dairy cows. Cows were individually stalled, allowing for the total collection of feces and were offered freshly cut grass twice daily. During this time, daily milk yield, BW, and dry matter intake (DMI) were greater for HF and JE × HF than for JE; milk fat and protein concentration ranked oppositely. Daily milk solids yield did not differ among the 3 genotypes. Intake capacity, expressed as DMI per BW, tended to be different among treatments, with JE having the greatest DMI per BW, HF the lowest, and JE × HF being intermediate. Production efficiency, expressed as milk solids per DMI, was higher for JE than HF and JE × HF. Digestive efficiency, expressed as digestibility of dry matter, organic matter, N, neutral detergent fiber, and acid detergent fiber, was higher for JE than HF. In grazing cows (n = 15 per genotype) samples of rumen fluid, collected using a transesophageal sampling device, were analyzed to determine the relative abundance of rumen microbial populations of cellulolytic bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. These are critically important for fermentation of feed into short-chain fatty acids. A decrease was observed in the relative abundance of Ruminococcus flavefaciens in the JE rumen compared with HF and JE × HF. We can deduce from this study that the JE genotype has greater digestibility and a different rumen microbial population than HF. Jersey and JE × HF cows had a proportionally greater GIT weight than HF. These differences are likely to contribute to the production efficiency differences among genotypes previously reported.
    • Inter-relationships among alternative definitions of feed efficiency in grazing lactating dairy cows

      Hurley, A. M.; Lopez-Villalobos, N.; McParland, Sinead; Kennedy, Emer; Lewis, Eva; O'Donovan, Michael; Burke, J.L.; Berry, Donagh P. (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2015-11-14)
      International interest in feed efficiency, and in particular energy intake and residual energy intake (REI), is intensifying due to a greater global demand for animal-derived protein and energy sources. Feed efficiency is a trait of economic importance, and yet is overlooked in national dairy cow breeding goals. This is due primarily to a lack of accurate data on commercial animals, but also a lack of clarity on the most appropriate definition of the feed intake and utilization complex. The objective of the present study was to derive alternative definitions of energetic efficiency in grazing lactating dairy cows and to quantify the inter-relationships among these alternative definitions. Net energy intake (NEI) from pasture and concentrate intake was estimated up to 8 times per lactation for 2,693 lactations from 1,412 Holstein-Friesian cows. Energy values of feed were based on the French Net Energy system where 1 UFL is the net energy requirements for lactation equivalent of 1 kg of air-dry barley. A total of 8,183 individual feed intake measurements were available. Energy balance was defined as the difference between NEI and energy expenditure. Efficiency traits were either ratio-based or residual-based; the latter were derived from least squares regression models. Residual energy intake was defined as NEI minus predicted energy to fulfill the requirements for the various energy sinks. The energy sinks (e.g., NEL, metabolic live weight) and additional contributors to energy kinetics (e.g., live weight loss) combined, explained 59% of the variation in NEI, implying that REI represented 41% of the variance in total NEI. The most efficient 10% of test-day records, as defined by REI (n = 709), on average were associated with a 7.59 UFL/d less NEI (average NEI of the entire population was 16.23 UFL/d) than the least efficient 10% of test-day records based on REI (n = 709). Additionally, the most efficient 10% of test-day records, as defined by REI, were associated with superior energy conversion efficiency (ECE, i.e., NEL divided by NEI; ECE = 0.55) compared with the least efficient 10% of test-day records (ECE = 0.33). Moreover, REI was positively correlated with energy balance, implying that more negative REI animals (i.e., deemed more efficient) are expected to be, on average, in greater negative energy balance. Many of the correlations among the 14 defined efficiency traits differed from unity, implying that each trait is measuring a different aspect of efficiency.
    • An investigation into the effects of different starts to the grazing season on sward structure and sward dynamics and dairy cow performance during the grazing season.

      O'Donovan, Michael; Kennedy, Emer; Delaby, Luc; Murphy, John Paul (Teagasc, 2005-12-01)
      Summary and Implications •Cows outdoors from mid February to early April offered an 80:20 grazed grass concentrate diet produced similar milk yield with higher protein yield and content compared to cows offered a 40:60 grass silage concentrate diet. •The improvement in animal performance is attributed to a higher energy, protein and total DM intake. •In the carryover period when both groups were grazing fulltime, the cows with early turnout had higher milk protein concentrations and higher grass DM intakes (1kg DM/cow/day) •An early grazed sward had a similar grass growth potential as a late grazed sward. •Herbage from early grazed swards have higher grass digestibility (OMD and UFL) value than late grazed swards •A lower daily herbage allowance can be tolerated with early grazed swards to achieve similar milk production performance as from late grazed swards. Up to 5-6 kg grass DM of late grazed swards will achieve the same level of milk production from early grazed swards. •With late turnout allocating high daily herbage allowance with large pre -grazing herbage mass is wasteful and compounds the effects of poor grass utilisation and undergrazing. •Early grazing is recommended when conditions allow even on heavy soil types. •From mid April onwards the optimum-stocking rate on early grazed swards is between 4.0 - 4.5 cows/ha. At this stocking rate a balance is found between feeding the cow adequately at pasture and achieving the correct post - grazing residuals. •Grass dry matter intake was significantly higher for the early grazed medium stocked cows in both studies, which clearly shows that the improvements in sward quality with early grazed swards can be converted to higher dairy cow performance. •Cows grazing the early grazed sward at a medium stocking rate had higher milk production performance which persisted in subsequent grazing rotations. This was due to the higher quality herbage available with the lower herbage mass swards. •When modelled to the whole farm system the reduced feed cost and higher performance achieved with early grazing, resulted in each extra day at grass increasing cow profitability by €2.70 cow/day
    • Manipulation of Grass Supply to Meet Feed Demand

      French, Padraig; Hennessey, Deirdre; O'Donovan, Michael; Laidlaw, S. (Teagasc, 2006-01)
      Grazed grass is generally the cheapest form of feed available for beef and milk production in Ireland. Grass growth is variable during the year with a peak in May/June and a secondary peak in August. There is little net growth from December to February. Grass growth is also variable across the country with higher grass growth in the south and south-west (14 to 15 t DM/ha/year) compared with approximately 11 t DM/ha/year in the north-east (Brereton, 1995). There is poor synchrony between grass supply and feed demand on beef and dairy farms. The feed demand curve for a calf to two year old beef system shows feed demand decreasing as grass supply increases, and grass supply decreasing as feed demand increases. Similarly, the feed demand curve of a spring calving dairy herd shows poor synchrony with grass supply, with a surplus of grass from about mid-April to mid-August, and a deficit for the rest of the year. Traditionally surplus grass produced during May and June is conserved as silage or hay and fed back to cattle and dairy cows during the deficit times of the year. This project examined the possibility of reducing the grass growth peak in May/June and increasing grass supply later in the year by altering nitrogen application pattern and extending autumn rotation lengths.
    • Measurement of Grassland Management Practice on Commercial Dairy Farms

      O'Donovan, Michael; Dillon, Pat (Teagasc, 1999-12-01)
      Visual assessment (>4 cm) was found to be the preferred method of pasture mass estimation. Grass budgeting with the use of grass cover measurement, was found to be the most effective aid to good grazing management. Closing farm grass cover in late November/early December should be 350 to 450 kg DM/ha with a range in covers of 200 to 900. Target farm grass covers of 550 to 600 kg DM/ha at turnout at stocking rate of 2.75 cow/ha. Pre-grazing yields at turnout should not be less than 1000 kg DM/ha, giving daily grass allowance of not less than 5 kg DM/cow. The available grass supply in Spring should be budgeted so as to finish the first grazing rotation between the 10th-20th April (grass supply equal grass demand). During the main grazing season (May to August), grazing grass cover should be maintained at 900 to 1000 kg DM/ha or 200 to 240 kg DM/cow. Pre-grazing yield should be maintained at 1800 to 2000 kg DM/ha, with post-grazing residuals at 150 to 200 kg DM/ha (5.5 to 6.5 cm post-grazing height). Stocking rates of greater than 4.5 cow/ha on the grazing area in May/June mostly resulted in inadequate grass supply at some periods over that time. Rotation length can be increased from 21 days in mid/late August to 35 days in late September, allowing grass cover to increase to 1100 to 1300 kg DM/ha. Last rotation should be 25 to 35 days, with first paddocks rested from the 10th to 15th October. Greater use of grass measurements at farm level will allow dairy farmers to obtain a greater proportion of the dairy herd’s feed demand from grazed grass, and higher cow performance.
    • Prediction of cull cow carcass characteristics from live weight and body condition score measured pre slaughter

      Minchin, W.; Buckley, Frank; Kenny, David A.; Keane, Michael G.; Shalloo, Laurence; O'Donovan, Michael (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2009)
      A study was conducted to provide information on the degree of carcass finish of Irish cull cows and to investigate the usefulness of live animal measurements for the prediction beef breeds (albeit with a moderate R2 value compared to the carcass weight prediction) using objective, non-intrusive and easily measured live animal measurements, should be of benefit to farmers finishing cull cows in Ireland. of cull cow carcass characteristics. Live weight (LW) and body condition score (BCS) were recorded on cows entering an Irish commercial slaughter facility between September and November, 2005. Data pertaining to sire breed, age and carcass characteristics were collected and subsequently collated for each cow. For analysis, cows (n = 2163) were subdivided into three breed categories: dairy breed sired by Holstein/ Friesian (FR), sired by early-maturing beef breeds (EM) and sired by late-maturing beef breeds (LM). The proportion of cows slaughtered at the desired (TARGET) carcass standard (cold carcass weight ≥ 272 kg, carcass conformation class ≥ P+ and carcass fat class ≥ 3) was low (on average 0.30), but did differ (P < 0.001) between the dairy and beef breed categories (0.22, 0.47 and 0.53 for FR, EM and LM categories, respectively). Regression procedures were used to develop equations to predict cold carcass weight, carcass conformation score, carcass fat score and proportion in the TARGET category from LW and BCS. Equations predicting cold carcass weight had high R2 values for all breed categories (0.81, 0.85 and 0.79 for the FR, EM and LM, respectively). Equations predicting carcass fatness had moderate R2 values for the beef breed categories (0.65 and 0.59 for the EM and LM, respectively). Equations predicting carcass conformation and the TARGET category yielded lower R2 values. The successful prediction of carcass weight for all breed categories and of carcass fatness for the
    • Requirements of future grass-based ruminant production systems in Ireland

      O'Donovan, Michael; Lewis, Eva; O'Kiely, Padraig (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      There is a renewed interest in grazing systems in many temperate and subtropical regions of the world. This results from lower inflation-adjusted prices, the proposed removal of some subsidies and tariffs, and rising labour, machinery and housing costs. The utilization of grass by grazing should provide the basis of sustainable livestock systems as grazed grass is the cheapest source of nutrients for ruminants. This is very important in the Irish context as there are approximately 130 000 farmers involved in primary production in Ireland and the value of the goods produced was €5.8 billion in 2008. For the future, the key objective for grazing systems is to ensure high grass utilization, allowing increased output per hectare for all sectors. The primary emphasis in grass breeding needs to be focused on (i) seasonal growth pattern as well as overall annual growth, (ii) nutritive value, including digestibility, particularly in the mid-season period, (iii) ensuring a sward canopy structure that is suitable for grazing, and (iv) development of persistent cultivars that perform under farm conditions. Evaluation programmes should also consider including an estimate of production potential at the field as well as at plot level, and evaluation under grazing management systems as well as under mixed grazing/silage management systems. It is difficult to accurately quantify the breeding achievements for grass mainly because its value, whether grazed or conserved, must be indirectly realised through the output of animal product. Grass evaluation and breeding need to better accommodate the requirements of the grazing ruminant. This will necessitate the application of new approaches and knowledge, which will ultimately enable further increases in animal output per hectare to be achieved.
    • The variation in morphology of perennial ryegrass cultivars throughout the grazing season and effects on organic matter digestibility

      Beecher, Marion; Hennessy, Deirdre; Boland, T. M.; McEvoy, Mary; O'Donovan, Michael; Lewis, Eva (Wiley, 2013-09-19)
      The grass plant comprises leaf, pseudostem, true stem (including inflorescence) and dead material. These components differ in digestibility, and variations in their relative proportions can affect sward quality. The objective of this study was to determine the change in the proportion and organic matter digestibility (OMD) of leaf, pseudostem, true stem and dead components of four perennial ryegrass cultivars (two tetraploids: Astonenergy and Bealey and two diploids: Abermagic and Spelga) throughout a grazing season. The DM proportions and in vitro OMD of leaf, pseudostem, true stem and dead in all cultivars were determined during ten grazing rotations between May 2011 and March 2012. There was an interaction between rotation and cultivar for leaf, pseudostem, true stem and dead proportions. In May and June, Astonenergy had the highest leaf and lowest true stem proportion (P < 0·05). From July onwards, there was no difference in leaf or true stem proportion between cultivars. Bealey had the highest annual mean OMD (752 g kg−1) and Spelga the lowest (696 g kg−1; P < 0·05). The OMD followed the order leaf > pseudostem > true stem > dead. Bealey had the highest combined leaf and pseudostem proportion 0·92, which explains why it had the highest OMD. In this study, the tetraploid cultivars had the highest leaf and pseudostem proportion and OMD. For accurate descriptions of a sward in grazing studies and to accurately determine sward morphological composition, pseudostem should be separated from true stem, particularly during the reproductive stage when true stem is present.
    • Welfare and health of dairy cattle on out-wintering pads or in cubicle housing with or without cushioned flooring.

      Boyle, Laura; Mee, John F; O'Donovan, Michael; Kiernan, Paul (Teagasc, 2-10-01)
      The first study described in this report involved housing 66 spring calving heifers in one of three systems during the winter, namely, (i) a conventional cubicle house, (ii) a cubicle house with cushioned flooring covering the slats (slat mats) in the passageway and (iii) on a wood-chip out-wintering pad. Behaviour, health and performance indicators were measured on all animals while pregnant from housing in November 2003 until calving in January 2004. Additionally, data were collected on the first 15 animals to calve in each treatment for the first four weeks of lactation in the spring. The slat mats resulted in some improvements to hoof health compared to the conventional cubicle house. Furthermore, it increased feeding times although this had no effect on feed intake or performance. The results also indicated that heifers have a preference for standing on cushioned flooring rather than on concrete during late pregnancy. Both groups indoors differed greatly from the outdoor heifers in several respects. The outdoor animals had healthier feet and were less affected by injuries to the limbs. They also had a more diverse behaviour repertoire and slipped and tripped less. However, their welfare was adversely affected by inclement weather conditions with indications of immunosuppression combined with a reduction in average daily gain being recorded. Furthermore, they were dirtier and spent less time lying down. None of these factors influenced milk yield, quality or composition in early lactation. Welfare problems associated with the pad were weather and management dependent and hence could be addressed by more frequent cleaning of the pad and/or an increase in space allowance combined with the provision of shelter. Hence, the potential for good welfare in dairy heifers was higher on the pad than indoors in a cubicle system even when slat mats were provided. In the second study, 62 autumn calving pluriparous dairy cows were housed in September 2004 in a cubicle system with either solid concrete floors or solid concrete floors covered by a rubber mat and cleaned by an automatic scrapper. Behaviour, locomotion and foot lesion scores were recorded from at least 3 weeks prior to calving until at least 16 weeks post-partum. Furthermore, in-depth measures of oestrous behaviour and reproductive performance were recorded. The cushioned flooring had no effect on sole or white line lesion scores or on dermatitis scores. However, it reduced the rate of wear of the heels in early lactation. Cows on cushioned flooring spent more time standing, but not feeding, at the feed face while cows on concrete stood in the cubicles instead. It appears that where cows have access to spacious, well-designed cubicles they can use them for standing to get relief for their feet from the concrete. Similar to the previous study this also indicates that cows prefer to stand on cushioned flooring than on bare concrete and emphasises the importance of at least providing cows with mats or mattresses in their cubicles. There were no effects of the cushioned flooring on oestrous behaviour or reproductive performance, which was poor in both treatments. It is suggested that the reasons for this were that the cushioned flooring did not provide sufficient traction for the cows and so they were as reluctant as the cows on concrete to perform mounting behaviour.