Research in the ABRD encompasses nutrition, fertility, breeding, health and welfare. Research activities focus on producing profitable animals and the corresponding management strategies to deliver the productivity, sustainability and product quality targets set out in Ireland’s Food Harvest 2020 vision. The ABRD uses a powerful combination of established animal science techniques, as well as cutting-edge molecular and computational biology tools, to answer relevant industry research questions. Our focus is on dairy and beef cattle and sheep. We have developed animal models that are divergent for a range of economically important traits.

Recent Submissions

  • Effects of fertiliser nitrogen rate to spring grass on apparent digestibility, nitrogen balance, ruminal fermentation and microbial nitrogen production in beef cattle and in vitro rumen fermentation and methane output

    O'Connor, Alan; Moloney, Aidan P.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Boland, T. M.; McGee, Mark; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/S/105 (Elsevier, 2019-06-06)
    The effects of two fertiliser nitrogen (N) application rates - 15 (LN) or 80 (HN) kg N/ha - to Lolium perenne dominant swards in spring, on grass dry matter (DM) intake, digestion, rumen fermentation, microbial N production and N-balance in beef cattle, and in vitro fermentation and methane production were studied. Sixteen Charolais steers with a mean live weight (s.d.) of 475 (18.4) kg, were used in a completely randomised block design experiment and offered zero-grazed grass harvested 21-d post N application. The same grass was incubated in an eight-vessel RUSITEC in a completely randomised block design experiment. The HN treatment had a 540 kg/ha higher grass DM yield, and a 20 g/kg DM higher crude protein (CP) concentration compared to LN. There was no difference (P > 0.05) in DM intake, or in vivo DM, organic matter (OM) and N digestibility between treatments. Rumen fermentation variables pH, lactic acid, ammonia (NH3) and total volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentration were similar (P > 0.05) for both treatments. Nitrogen intake was 19 g/d higher (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN. Total and urine N loss was 16 and 14 g/d greater (P < 0.05), respectively, for HN compared to LN, but faecal N loss did not differ (P > 0.05) between treatments. The quantity of N retained and N-use efficiency did not differ (P > 0.05) between LN and HN. Plasma urea concentration was 1 mmol/L greater (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN. Estimated microbial N production was greater (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN. In vitro NH3 concentrations were higher (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN, whereas in vitro rumen pH, lactic acid and VFA concentrations and molar proportions did not differ (P > 0.05) between HN and LN. In vitro methane and total gas output were not different (P > 0.05) between treatments. Reducing fertiliser N application rate to grass in spring reduced total and urinary N excretion, which has environmental benefits, with no effects on in vitro methane output.
  • How herd best linear unbiased estimates affect the progress achievable from gains in additive and nonadditive genetic merit

    Dunne, F. L.; McParland, Sinead; Kelleher, Margaret M.; Walsh, S.W.; Berry, Donagh P.; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 16/RC/3835 (Elsevier, 2019-04-10)
    Sustainable dairy cow performance relies on coevolution in the development of breeding and management strategies. Tailoring breeding programs to herd performance metrics facilitates improved responses to breeding decisions. Although herd-level raw metrics on performance are useful, implicitly included within such statistics is the mean herd genetic merit. The objective of the present study was to quantify the expected response from selection decisions on additive and nonadditive merit by herd performance metrics independent of herd mean genetic merit. Performance traits considered in the present study were age at first calving, milk yield, calving to first service, number of services, calving interval, and survival. Herd-level best linear unbiased estimates (BLUE) for each performance trait were available on a maximum of 1,059 herds, stratified as best, average, and worst for each performance trait separately. The analyses performed included (1) the estimation of (co)variance for each trait in the 3 BLUE environments and (2) the regression of cow-level phenotypic performance on either the respective estimated breeding value (EBV) or the heterosis coefficient of the cow. A fundamental assumption of genetic evaluations is that 1 unit change in EBV equates to a 1 unit change in the respective phenotype; results from the present study, however, suggest that the realization of the change in phenotypic performance is largely dependent on the herd BLUE for that trait. Herds achieving more yield, on average, than expected from their mean genetic merit, had a 20% greater response to changes in EBV as well as 43% greater genetic standard deviation relative to herds within the worst BLUE for milk yield. Conversely, phenotypic performance in fertility traits (with the exception of calving to first service) tended to have a greater response to selection as well as a greater additive genetic standard deviation within the respective worst herd BLUE environments; this is suggested to be due to animals performing under more challenging environments leading to larger achievable gains. The attempts to exploit nonadditive genetic effects such as heterosis are often the basis of promoting cross-breeding, yet the results from the present study suggest that improvements in phenotypic performance is largely dependent on the environment. The largest gains due to heterotic effects tended to be within the most stressful (i.e., worst) BLUE environment for all traits, thus suggesting the heterosis effects can be beneficial in mitigating against poorer environments.
  • The genetic architecture of milk ELISA scores as an indicator of Johne's disease (paratuberculosis) in dairy cattle

    Brito, Luiz F.; Mallikarjunappa, Sanjay; Sargolzaei, Mehdi; Koeck, Astrid; Chesnais, Jacques; Schenkel, Flavio S.; Meade, Kieran G; Miglior, Filippo; Karrow, Niel A.; The Semex Alliance; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-09-13)
    Johne's disease (or paratuberculosis), caused by Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP) infection, is a globally prevalent disease with severe economic and welfare implications. With no effective treatment available, understanding the role of genetics influencing host infection status is essential to develop selection strategies to breed for increased resistance to MAP infection. The main objectives of this study were to estimate genetic parameters for the MAP-specific antibody response using milk ELISA scores in Canadian Holstein cattle as an indicator of resistance to Johne's disease, and to unravel genomic regions and candidate genes significantly associated with MAP infection. After data editing, 168,987 milk ELISA records from 2,306 herds, obtained from CanWest Dairy Herd Improvement, were used for further analyses. Variance and heritability estimates for MAP infection status were determined using univariate linear animal models under 3 scenarios: (a) SCEN1: the complete data set (all herds); (b) SCEN2: herds with at least one suspect or test-positive animal (ELISA optical density ≥0.07); and (c) SCEN3: herds with at least one test-positive animal (ELISA optical density ≥0.11). Heritability estimates were calculated as 0.066, 0.064, and 0.063 for SCEN1, SCEN2, and SCEN3, respectively. The correlations between estimated breeding values for resistance to MAP infection and other economically important traits, when significant, were favorable and of low magnitude. Genome-wide association analyses identified important genomic regions on Bos taurus autosome (BTA)1, BTA7, BTA9, BTA14, BTA15, BTA17, BTA19, and BTA25 showing significant association with MAP infection status. These regions included 2 single nucleotide polymorphisms located 2 kb upstream of positional candidate genes CD86 and WNT9B, which play key roles in host immune response and tissue homeostasis. This study revealed the genetic architecture of MAP infection in Canadian Holstein cattle as measured by milk ELISA scores by estimating genetic parameters along with the identification of genomic regions potentially influencing MAP infection status. These findings will be of significant value toward implementing genetic and genomic evaluations for resistance to MAP infection in Holstein cattle.
  • Genetic selection for hoof health traits and cow mobility scores can accelerate the rate of genetic gain in producer-scored lameness in dairy cows

    Ring, Siobhan C.; Twomey, Alan J.; Byrne, Nicky; Kelleher, Margaret M.; Pabiou, Thierry; Doherty, Michael L.; Berry, Donagh P.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (American Dairy Science Association, 2018-09-13)
    Cattle breeding programs that strive to reduce the animal-level incidence of lameness are often hindered by the availability of informative phenotypes. As a result, indicator traits of lameness (i.e., hoof health and morphological conformation scores) can be used to improve the accuracy of selection and subsequent genetic gain. Therefore, the objectives of the present study were to estimate the variance components for hoof health traits using various phenotypes collected from a representative sample of Irish dairy cows. Also of interest to the present study was the genetic relationship between both hoof health traits and conformation traits with producer-scored lameness. Producer-recorded lameness events and linear conformation scores from 307,657 and 117,859 Irish dairy cows, respectively, were used. Data on hoof health (i.e., overgrown sole, white line disease, and sole hemorrhage), mobility scores, and body condition scores were also available from a research study on up to 11,282 Irish commercial dairy cows. Linear mixed models were used to quantify variance components for each trait and to estimate genetic correlations among traits. The estimated genetic parameters for hoof health traits in the present study were greater (i.e., heritability range: 0.005 to 0.27) than previously reported in dairy cows. With the exception of analyses that considered hoof health traits in repeatability models, little difference in estimated variance components existed among the various hoof-health phenotypes. Results also suggest that producer-recorded lameness is correlated with both hoof health (i.e., genetic correlation up to 0.48) and cow mobility (i.e., genetic correlation = 0.64). Moreover, cows that genetically tend to have rear feet that appear more parallel when viewed from the rear are also genetically more predisposed to lameness (genetic correlation = 0.39); genetic correlations between lameness and other feet and leg type traits, as well as between lameness and frame type traits, were not different from zero. Results suggest that if the population breeding goal was to reduce lameness incidence, improve hoof health, or improve cow mobility, genetic selection for either of these traits should indirectly benefit the other traits. Results were used to quantify the genetic gains achievable for lameness when alternative phenotypes are available.
  • Effect of finishing diet and duration on the sensory quality and volatile profile of lamb meat

    Gkarane, Vasiliki; Brunton, Nigel; Allen, Paul; Gravador, Rufielyn S.; Claffey, Noel A.; Diskin, Michael G.; Fahey, Alan G.; Farmer, Linda J.; Moloney, Aidan P; Alcalde, Maria J.; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-08-02)
    Animal production factors can affect the sensory quality of lamb meat. The study investigated the effect of diet composition and duration of consumption on the proximate analysis, volatile profile and sensory quality of lamb meat. Ninety-nine male Texel × Scottish Blackface lambs were raised at pasture for 10 months before being assigned in groups of 11 to one of the following treatments: 100% Silage (S) for 36 (S36), 54 (S54) or 72 (S72) days; 50% Silage - 50% Concentrate (SC) for 36 (SC36), 54 (SC54) or 72 (SC72) days; 100% Concentrate (C) for 36 (C36) or 54 (C54) or 72 (C72) days. A trained sensory panel found Intensity of Lamb Aroma, Dry Aftertaste and Astringent Aftertaste to be higher in meat from lambs on the concentrate diet. Discriminant analysis showed that the volatile profile enabled discrimination of lamb based on dietary treatment but the volatile differences were insufficient to impact highly on sensory quality. Muscle from animals in the S54 group had higher Manure/Faecal Aroma and Woolly Aroma than the SC54 and C54 groups, possibly related to higher levels of indole and skatole. Further research is required to establish if these small differences would influence consumer acceptability.
  • Effect of suckler cow vaccination against glycoprotein E (gE)-negative bovine herpesvirus type 1 (BoHV-1) on passive immunity and physiological response to subsequent bovine respiratory disease vaccination of their progeny

    Earley, Bernadette; Tiernan, Katie; Duffy, Catherine; Dunn, Amanda; Waters, Sinead M.; Morrison, Steven; McGee, Mark; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/S/131 (Elsevier, 2018-01-10)
    The study objectives were: 1) to characterise the development of immunocompetence in beef suckler calves from birth to three months of age, and 2) to trace glycoprotein E (gE)-negative bovine herpesvirus type 1 (BoHV-1) antibodies from dam to calf and subsequent vaccination against pneumonia. Thirty multiparous beef suckler, spring-calving cows, consisting of two genotypes were involved; Limousin × Friesian (LF) and Charolais × Limousin (CL). Cows were immunised against the inactivated antigen strain of BoHV-1 (gE- (IBR marker vaccine) at day − 84 and received a booster at day − 56 relative to the expected calving date (d 0). Calves were immunised at 14 and 42 days of age against PI-3 virus, BRSV and Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica serotype A1 using a commercial vaccine administered subcutaneously. Additionally, calves were immunised against BoHV-1 at 42 days of age, using 1 dose of a live commercial vaccine administered intranasally. Blood samples were collected from all calves (n = 30) via jugular venipuncture at birth, prior to colostrum feeding (0 h), at 12 h (h), 24 h, 72 h and 168 h after the initial feeding of colostrum, and at d 7, 14, 28, 42, 56 and 84 post birth. The mean ratio of gE negative antibodies circulating in the blood of LF and CL dams pre-partum scored negative to gE ab (S/N ≥ 0.70). Antibody levels of BoHV-1 (wild type (wt)) peaked at 12 h post-birth in calves and declined thereafter, as the maternal antibodies decayed. There was no difference in BoHV-1 and BRSV antibody levels in calves post vaccination.
  • Sharpea and Kandleria are lactic acid producing rumen bacteria that do not change their fermentation products when co-cultured with a methanogen

    Kumar, Sandeep; Treloar, Bryan P.; Teh, Koon Hoong; McKenzie, Catherine M.; Henderson, Gemma; Attwood, Graeme T.; Waters, Sinead M.; Patchett, Mark L.; Janssen, Peter H.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-07-25)
    Sharpea and Kandleria are associated with rumen samples from low-methane-emitting sheep. Four strains of each genus were studied in culture, and the genomes of nine strains were analysed, to understand the physiology of these bacteria. All eight cultures grew equally well with d-glucose, d-fructose, d-galactose, cellobiose, and sucrose supplementation. d-Lactate was the major end product, with small amounts of the mixed acid fermentation products formate, acetate and ethanol. Genes encoding the enzymes necessary for this fermentation pattern were found in the genomes of four strains of Sharpea and five of Kandleria. Strains of Sharpea produced traces of hydrogen gas in pure culture, but strains of Kandleria did not. This was consistent with finding that Sharpea, but not Kandleria, genomes contained genes coding for hydrogenases. It was speculated that, in co-culture with a methanogen, Sharpea and Kandleria might change their fermentation pattern from a predominately homolactic to a predominately mixed acid fermentation, which would result in a decrease in lactate production and an increase in formation of acetate and perhaps ethanol. However, Sharpea and Kandleria did not change their fermentation products when co-cultured with Methanobrevibacter olleyae, a methanogen that can use both hydrogen and formate, and lactate remained the major end product. The results of this study therefore support a hypothesis that explains the link between lower methane yields and larger populations of Sharpea and Kandleria in the rumens of sheep.
  • Blood immune transcriptome analysis of artificially fed dairy calves and naturally suckled beef calves from birth to 7 days of age

    Surlis, Carla; Earley, Bernadette; McGee, Mark; Keogh, Kate; Cormican, Paul; Blackshields, Gordon; Tiernan, Katie; Dunn, Amanda; Morrison, Steven; Arguello, A.; et al. (Nature Publishing Group, 2018-10-18)
    Neonatal calves possess a very immature and naïve immune system and are reliant on the intake of maternal colostrum for passive transfer of immunoglobulins. Variation in colostrum management of beef and dairy calves is thought to affect early immune development. Therefore, the objective of this study was to examine changes in gene expression and investigate molecular pathways involved in the immune-competence development of neonatal Holstein dairy calves and naturally suckled beef calves using next generation RNA-sequencing during the first week of life. Jugular whole blood samples were collected from Holstein (H) dairy calves (n = 8) artificially fed 5% B.W. colostrum, and from beef calves which were the progenies of Charolais-Limousin (CL; n = 7) and Limousin-Friesian beef suckler cows (LF; n = 7), for subsequent RNA isolation. In dairy calves, there was a surge in pro-inflammatory cytokine gene expression possibly due to the stress of separation from the dam. LF calves exhibited early signs of humoral immune development with observed increases in the expression genes coding for Ig receptors, which was not evident in the other breeds by 7 days of age. Immune and health related DEGs identified as upregulated in beef calves are prospective contender genes for the classification of biomarkers for immune-competence development, and will contribute towards a greater understanding of the development of an immune response in neonatal calves.
  • RNA-seq analysis of bovine adipose tissue in heifers fed diets differing in energy and protein content

    Waerp, Hilde K. L.; Waters, Sinead M.; McCabe, Matthew; Cormican, Paul; Salte, Ragnar; Research Council of Norway; TINE SA Norwegian dairies; Felleskjøpet agricultural cooperative; Animalia AS; 199448 (PLOS, 2018-09-20)
    Adipose tissue is no longer considered a mere energy reserve, but a metabolically and hormonally active organ strongly associated with the regulation of whole-body metabolism. Knowledge of adipose metabolic regulatory function is of great importance in cattle management, as it affects the efficiency and manner with which an animal converts feedstuff to milk, meat and fat. However, the molecular mechanisms regulating metabolism in bovine adipose tissue are still not fully elucidated. The emergence of next-generation sequencing technologies has facilitated the analysis of metabolic function and regulation at the global gene expression level. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of diets differing in protein and energy density level on gene expression in adipose tissue of growing replacement dairy heifers using next-generation RNA sequencing (RNAseq). Norwegian Red heifers were fed either a high- or low-protein concentrate (HP/LP) and a high- or low-energy roughage (HE/LE) diet from 3 months of age until confirmed pregnancy to give four treatments (viz, HPHE, HPLE, LPHE, LPLE) with different growth profiles. Subcutaneous adipose tissue sampled at 12 months of age was analyzed for gene expression differences using RNAseq. The largest difference in gene expression was found between LPHE and LPLE heifers, for which 1092 genes were significantly differentially expressed, representing an up-regulation of mitochondrial function, lipid, carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism as well as changes in the antioxidant system in adipose tissue of LPHE heifers. Differences between HPHE and HPLE heifers were much smaller, and dominated by genes representing NAD biosynthesis, as was the significantly differentially expressed genes (DEG) common to both HE-LE contrasts. Differences between HP and LP groups within each energy treatment were minimal. This study emphasizes the importance of transcriptional regulation of adipose tissue energy metabolism, and identifies candidate genes for further studies on early-stage obesity and glucose load in dairy cattle.
  • Effect of equine chorionic gonadotropin treatment during a progesterone-based timed artificial insemination program on reproductive performance in seasonal-calving lactating dairy cows

    Randi, Federico; Sánchez, José Maria; Herlihy, Mary M.; Valenza, Alessio; Kenny, David A.; Butler, Stephen T.; Lonergan, P.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13S515; 13S528 (Elsevier, 2018-08-23)
    The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of progesterone (P4)-based timed artificial insemination (TAI) programs on fertility in seasonal-calving, pasture-based dairy herds. A total of 1,421 lactating dairy cows on 4 spring-calving farms were stratified based on days in milk (DIM) and parity and randomly allocated to 1 of 3 treatments: (1) control: no hormonal treatment; cows inseminated at detected estrus; (2) P4-Ovsynch: cows received a 7-d P4-releasing intravaginal device (PRID Delta; CEVA Santé Animale, Libourne, France) with 100 μg of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analog (Ovarelin; CEVA Santé Animale) at PRID insertion, a 25-mg injection of PGF2α (Enzaprost; CEVA Santé Animale) at PRID removal, GnRH at 56 h after device removal and TAI 16 h later; (3) P4-Ovsynch+eCG: the same as P4-Ovsynch, but cows received 500 IU of equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG; Syncrostim; CEVA Santé Animale) at PRID removal. At 10 d before mating start date (MSD), all cows that were ≥35 DIM were examined by transrectal ultrasound to assess presence or absence of a corpus luteum; body condition score (BCS) was also recorded. Pregnancy diagnosis was performed by transrectal ultrasonography 30 to 35 d after insemination. Overall pregnancy/AI (P/AI) was not different between groups (50.9, 49.8, and 46.3% for control, P4-Ovsynch, and P4-Ovsynch+eCG, respectively) but the 21-d pregnancy rate was increased by the use of synchronization (35.0, 51.7, and 47.2%, respectively). Compared with the control group, synchronization significantly reduced the interval from MSD to conception (34.6, 23.0, and 26.5 d, respectively) and consequently reduced the average days open (98.0, 86.0, and 89.0 d). Across all treatment groups, DIM at the start of synchronization affected P/AI (42.3, 49.5, and 53.9% for <60, 60–80, and >80 DIM, respectively), but neither parity (46.5, 50.4, and 48.4% for parity 1, 2, and ≥3, respectively) nor BCS (44.0, 49.4, and 58.6% for ≤2.50, 2.75–3.25, and ≥3.50, respectively) affected the likelihood of P/AI. Two-way interactions between treatment and DIM, parity, or BCS were not detected. In conclusion, the use of TAI accelerated pregnancy establishment in cows in a pasture-based system by reducing days open, but eCG administration at PRID removal did not affect P/AI.
  • The relationship between serum insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) concentration and reproductive performance, and genome-wide associations for serum IGF-1 in Holstein cows

    Gobikrushanth, M.; Purfield, Deirdre C; Colazo, M. G.; Wang, Z.; Butler, Stephen T.; Ambrose, D. J.; Growing Forward 2; Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency; Alberta Milk; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; et al. (Elsevier, 2019-07-19)
    The objectives of this study were to determine (1) factors associated with serum concentration of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1); (2) the relationship between serum IGF-1 concentration during the first week postpartum and ovarian cyclicity status by 35 d postpartum (DPP); (3) an optimum serum IGF-1 concentration threshold predictive of pregnancy to first artificial insemination (P/AI), including its diagnostic values; (4) the associations among categories of serum IGF-1 concentration and reproductive outcomes (P/AI and pregnancy risk up to 150 and 250 DPP); and (5) single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) associated with phenotypic variation in serum IGF-1 concentration in dairy cows. Serum IGF-1 concentration was determined at 7 (±2.4; ±standard error of the mean) DPP in 647 lactating Holstein cows (213 primiparous, 434 multiparous) from 7 herds in Alberta, Canada. The overall mean, median, minimum, and maximum serum IGF-1 concentrations during the first week postpartum were 37.8 (±1.23), 31.0, 20.0, and 225.0 ng/mL, respectively. Herd, age, parity, precalving body condition score, and season of blood sampling were all identified as factors associated with serum IGF-1 concentrations. Although serum IGF-1 concentration during the first week postpartum had no association with ovarian cyclicity status by 35 DPP in primiparous cows, it was greater in cyclic than in acyclic multiparous cows (32.2 vs. 27.4 ng/mL, respectively). The optimum serum IGF-1 thresholds predictive of P/AI were 85.0 ng/mL (sensitivity = 31.9%; specificity = 89.1%) and 31.0 ng/mL (sensitivity = 45.5%; specificity = 66.9%) for primiparous and multiparous cows, respectively. When cows were grouped into either high or low IGF-1 categories (greater or less than or equal to 85.0 ng/mL for primiparous cows and greater or less than or equal to 31.0 ng/mL for multiparous cows, respectively), primiparous cows with high IGF-1 had 4.43 times greater odds of P/AI and a tendency for higher pregnancy risk up to 150 DPP than those with low IGF-1, but not up to 250 DPP. Likewise, multiparous cows with high IGF-1 had 1.61 times greater odds of P/AI than those with low IGF-1. Pregnancy risk up to 150 and 250 DPP, however, did not differ between IGF-1 categories in multiparous cows. Moreover, 37 SNP across 10 Bos taurus autosomes were associated with variation in serum IGF-1 concentration, and 4 previously identified candidate genes related to fertility that were in linkage disequilibrium with some of these SNP were also identified.
  • Characterization of best linear unbiased estimates generated from national genetic evaluations of reproductive performance, survival, and milk yield in dairy cows

    Dunne, F. L.; Kelleher, Margaret M.; Walsh, S.W.; Berry, Donagh P.; MultiRepro project; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Elsevier, 2018-05-16)
    Genetic evaluations decompose an observed phenotype into its genetic and nongenetic components; the former are termed BLUP with the solutions for the systematic environmental effects in the statistical model termed best linear unbiased estimates (BLUE). Geneticists predominantly focus on the BLUP and rarely consider the BLUE. The objective of this study, however, was to define and quantify the association between 8 herd-level characteristics and BLUE for 6 traits in dairy herds, namely (1) age at first calving, (2) calving to first service interval (CFS), (3) number of services, (4) calving interval (CIV), (5) survival, and (6) milk yield. Phenotypic data along with the fixed and random effects solutions were generated from the Irish national multi-breed dairy cow fertility genetic evaluations on 3,445,557 cows; BLUE for individual contemporary groups were collapsed into mean herd-year estimates. Data from 5,707 spring-calving herds between the years 2007 and 2016 inclusive were retained; association analyses were undertaken using linear mixed multiple regression models. Pearson coefficient correlations were used to quantify the relationships among individual trait herd-year BLUE, and transition matrices were used to understand the dynamics of mean herd BLUE estimates over years. Based on the mean annual trends in raw, BLUP, and BLUE, it was estimated that BLUE were associated with at least two-thirds of the improvement in CIV and milk production over the past 10 yr. Milk recording herds calved heifers for the first time on average 15 d younger, had an almost 2 d longer CFS but 2.3 d shorter CIV than non-milk-recording herds. Larger herd sizes were associated with worse BLUE for both CFS and CIV. Expanding herds and herds that had the highest proportion of cows born on the farm itself, on average, calved heifers younger and had shorter CIV. By separating the raw performance of a selection of herds into their respective BLUE and BLUP, it was possible to identify herds with inferior management practices that were being compensated by superior genetics; similarly, herds were identified with superior BLUE, but because of their inferior genetic merit, were not reaching their full potential. This suggests that BLUE could have a pivotal role in a tailored decision support tool that would enable producers to focus on the most limiting factor hindering them from achieving their maximum performance.
  • GWAS and eQTL analysis identifies a SNP associated with both residual feed intake and GFRA2 expression in beef cattle

    Higgins, Marc G.; Fitzsimons, Clare; McClure, Matthew C.; McKenna, Clare; Conroy, S.B.; Kenny, David A.; McGee, Mark; Waters, Sinead M.; Morris, Derek W.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; et al. (Nature Publishing Group, 2018-09-24)
    Residual feed intake (RFI), a measure of feed efficiency, is an important economic and environmental trait in beef production. Selection of low RFI (feed efficient) cattle could maintain levels of production, while decreasing feed costs and methane emissions. However, RFI is a difficult and expensive trait to measure. Identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with RFI may enable rapid, cost effective genomic selection of feed efficient cattle. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were conducted in multiple breeds followed by meta-analysis to identify genetic variants associated with RFI and component traits (average daily gain (ADG) and feed intake (FI)) in Irish beef cattle (n = 1492). Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis was conducted to identify functional effects of GWAS-identified variants. Twenty-four SNPs were associated (P < 5 × 10−5) with RFI, ADG or FI. The variant rs43555985 exhibited strongest association for RFI (P = 8.28E-06). An eQTL was identified between this variant and GFRA2 (P = 0.0038) where the allele negatively correlated with RFI was associated with increased GFRA2 expression in liver. GFRA2 influences basal metabolic rates, suggesting a mechanism by which genetic variation may contribute to RFI. This study identified SNPs that may be useful both for genomic selection of RFI and for understanding the biology of feed efficiency.
  • Associations between exposure to bovine herpesvirus 1 (BoHV-1) and milk production, reproductive performance, and mortality in Irish dairy herds

    Sayers, Riona; Irish Dairy Levy (Elsevier, 2016-12-09)
    As cost-benefit analyses are required to prioritize and promote disease control and eradication programs within a jurisdiction, national data relating to disease-related production losses are particularly useful. The objectives of the current study were to use Irish bovine herpesvirus 1 (BoHV-1) prevalence data in dairy herds, obtained by bulk milk sampling on 4 occasions over the 2009 lactation, to document associations between milk production, fertility performance, mortality, and BoHV-1 herd status. Bulk milk (n = 305) antibody ELISA was used to classify farms as positive or negative in terms of endemic BoHV-1. Cow-level (milk parameters only) and herd-level performance data were sourced from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation. Ordinary linear and negative binomial regressions were used to investigate associations between milk, fertility, and mortality performance and herd-level BoHV-1 results (both categorical and continuous variables). Only slight effects on the rates of carryover cows, nonpregnant cows, and total deaths were highlighted with increasing ELISA sample/positive (%) values (incidence rate ratio = 1.001). Multiparous cows in herds BoHV-1 bulk milk antibody positive recorded a reduction in milk yield per cow per year of 250.9 L in the multivariable linear model. Milk fat and protein yields were also affected by herd BoHV-1 status, again highlighting sub-optimal milk production in BoHV-1 bulk milk-positive herds. The current study has highlighted an economical method of investigating losses due to endemic infection using repeated bulk milk sampling over a single lactation. These data can contribute to analyzing the cost-benefit of applying BoHV-1 control strategies both on farm and at a national level.
  • Effect of stocking rate and animal genotype on dry matter intake, milk production, body weight, and body condition score in spring-calving, grass-fed dairy cows

    Coffey, E. L.; Delaby, Luc; Fitzgerald, S.; Galvin, Norann; Pierce, K.M.; Horan, Brendan; Dairy Research Ireland (Elsevier, 2017-06-28)
    The objective of the experiment was to quantify the effect of stocking rate (SR) and animal genotype on milk production, dry matter intake (DMI), energy balance, and production efficiency across 2 consecutive grazing seasons (2014 and 2015). A total of 753 records from 177 dairy cows were available for analysis: 68 Holstein-Friesian and 71 Jersey × Holstein-Friesian (JxHF) cows each year of the experiment under a pasture-based seasonal production system. Animals within each breed group were randomly allocated to 1 of 3 whole-farm SR treatments defined in terms of body weight per hectare (kg of body weight/ha): low (1,200 kg of body weight/ha), medium (1,400 kg of body weight/ha), and high (1,600 kg of body weight/ha), and animals remained in the same SR treatments for the duration of the experiment. Individual animal DMI was estimated 3 times per year at grass using the n-alkane technique: March (spring), June (summer), and September (autumn), corresponding to 45, 111, and 209 d in milk, respectively. The effects of SR, animal genotype, season, and their interactions were analyzed using mixed models. Milk production, body weight, and production efficiency per cow decreased significantly as SR increased due to reduced herbage availability per cow and increased grazing severity. As a percentage of body weight, JxHF cows had higher feed conversion efficiency, higher DMI and milk solids (i.e., kg of fat + kg of protein) production, and also required less energy intake to produce 1 kg of milk solids. The increased production efficiency of JxHF cows at a similar body weight per hectare in the current analysis suggests that factors other than individual cow body weight contribute to the improved efficiency within intensive grazing systems. The results highlight the superior productive efficiency of high genetic potential crossbred dairy cows within intensive pasture-based milk production systems at higher SR where feed availability is restricted.
  • Genetic and nongenetic factors associated with milk color in dairy cows

    Scarso, S.; McParland, Sinead; Visentin, G.; Berry, Donagh P.; McDermott, A.; de Marchi, M.; European Union (Elsevier, 2017-07-12)
    Milk color is one of the sensory properties that can influence consumer choice of one product over another and it influences the quality of processed dairy products. This study aims to quantify the cow-level genetic and nongenetic factors associated with bovine milk color traits. A total of 136,807 spectra from Irish commercial and research herds (with multiple breeds and crosses) were used. Milk lightness (Lˆ*) , red-green index (aˆ*) and yellow-blue index (bˆ*) were predicted for individual milk samples using only the mid-infrared spectrum of the milk sample. Factors associated with milk color were breed, stage of lactation, parity, milking-time, udder health status, pasture grazing, and seasonal calving. (Co)variance components for Lˆ*,aˆ* , and bˆ* were estimated using random regressions on the additive genetic and within-lactation permanent environmental effects. Greater bˆ* value (i.e., more yellow color) was evident in milk from Jersey cows. Milk Lˆ* increased consistently with stage of lactation, whereas aˆ* increased until mid lactation to subsequently plateau. Milk bˆ* deteriorated until 31 to 60 DIM, but then improved thereafter until the end of lactation. Relative to multiparous cows, milk yielded by primiparae was, on average, lighter (i.e., greater Lˆ* ), more red (i.e., greater aˆ* ), and less yellow (i.e., lower bˆ* ). Milk from the morning milk session had lower Lˆ*,aˆ*, and bˆ* Heritability estimates (±SE) for milk color varied between 0.15 ± 0.02 (30 DIM) and 0.46 ± 0.02 (210 DIM) for Lˆ* , between 0.09 ± 0.01 (30 DIM) and 0.15 ± 0.02 (305 DIM) for aˆ* , and between 0.18 ± 0.02 (21 DIM) and 0.56 ± 0.03 (305 DIM) for bˆ* For all the 3 milk color features, the within-trait genetic correlations approached unity as the time intervals compared shortened and were generally <0.40 between the peripheries of the lactation. Strong positive genetic correlations existed between bˆ* value and milk fat concentration, ranging from 0.82 ± 0.19 at 5 DIM to 0.96 ± 0.01 at 305 DIM and confirming the observed phenotypic correlation (0.64, SE = 0.01). Results of the present study suggest that breeding strategies for the enhancement of milk color traits could be implemented for dairy cattle populations. Such strategies, coupled with the knowledge of milk color traits variation due to nongenetic factors, may represent a tool for the dairy processors to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of artificial pigments during milk manufacturing.
  • Short communication: Uncovering quantitative trait loci associated with resistance to Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis infection in Holstein cattle using a high-density single nucleotide polymorphism panel

    Mallikarjunappa, Sanjay; Sargolzaei, Mehdi; Brito, Luiz F.; Meade, Kieran G; Karrow, N. A.; Pant, S. D.; The Semex Alliance; NSERC; the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation; Darcy John O'Sullivan Bequest; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-05-10)
    Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is the etiological agent of Johne's disease in cattle. Johne's disease is a disease of significant economic, animal welfare, and public health concern around the globe. Therefore, understanding the genetic architecture of resistance to MAP infection has great relevance to advance genetic selection methods to breed more resistant animals. The objectives of this study were to perform a genome-wide association study of previously analyzed 50K genotypes now imputed to a high-density single nucleotide polymorphism panel (777K), aiming to validate previously reported associations and potentially identify additional single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with antibody response to MAP infection. A principal component regression-based genome-wide association study revealed 15 putative quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with the MAP infection phenotype (serum or milk ELISA tests) on 9 different chromosomes (Bos taurus autosomes 5, 6, 7, 10, 14, 15, 16, 20, and 21). These results validated previous findings and identified new QTL on Bos taurus autosomes 15, 16, 20, and 21. The positional candidate genes NLRP3, IFi47, TRIM41, TNFRSF18, and TNFRSF4 lying within these QTL were identified. Further functional validation of these genes is now warranted to investigate their roles in regulating the immune response and, consequently, cattle resistance to MAP infection.
  • The relationship between serum anti-Müllerian hormone concentrations and fertility, and genome-wide associations for anti-Müllerian hormone in Holstein cows

    Gobikrushanth, M.; Purfield, Deirdre C; Colazo, M. G.; Butler, Stephen T.; Wang, Z.; Ambrose, D. J.; Growing Forward 2; Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency; Alberta Milk; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-05-07)
    The objectives of this study were to (1) evaluate factors associated with variation in circulating anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) concentrations, (2) establish an optimum AMH threshold predictive of pregnancy to first artificial insemination (P/AI), (3) examine the relationship between AMH and fertility (P/AI, pregnancy loss between 30 and 60 d after artificial insemination, and pregnancy risk up to 250 d postpartum), and (4) identify quantitative trait loci associated with phenotypic variation of AMH concentrations in dairy cows. Serum AMH concentrations (pg/mL) were determined at 7 ± 2.4 d postpartum in 647 lactating Holstein cows (213 primiparous, 434 multiparous) from 1 research and 6 commercial dairy herds in Alberta, Canada. Of these, 589 cows were genotyped on the 26K Bovine BeadChip (Neogen Inc., Lincoln, NE) and subsequently imputed to the Illumina Bovine High Density BeadChip (Illumina, San Diego, CA) for genome-wide association analysis for variation in serum AMH concentrations. Factors associated with variation in serum AMH concentrations and the relationship between categories of AMH and aforementioned fertility outcomes were evaluated only in a subset of 460 cows that had a complete data set available. The overall mean (±standard error of the mean), median, minimum, and maximum AMH concentrations were 191.1 ± 6.3, 151.7, 13.9, and 1,879.0 pg/mL, respectively. The AMH concentrations were not associated with herd, precalving body condition score, postpartum week, and season of sampling; the lactation number, however, had a quadratic relationship with serum AMH concentrations (116.2, 204.9 204.5, and 157.9 pg/mL for first, second, third, and ≥fourth lactation, respectively). The optimum AMH threshold predictive of P/AI could not be established because the receiver operating characteristic curve analysis model was nonsignificant. Categories of AMH [low (<83.0 pg/mL; n = 92), intermediate (≥83.0 to ≤285.0 pg/mL; n = 276), and high (>285.0 pg/mL; n = 92) based on lowest 20%, intermediate 60%, and highest 20% serum AMH) had no associations with P/AI (34, 43, and 40%), pregnancy loss between 30 and 60 d after artificial insemination (20, 12, and 8%), or pregnancy risk up to 250 d postpartum. One candidate gene associated with AMH production [AMH gene on Bos taurus autosome (BTA) 7] and 4 candidate genes related to embryo development (SCAI and PPP6C genes on BTA11 and FGF18 and EEF2K genes on BTA20 and BTA25, respectively) were in linkage disequilibrium with single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with phenotypic variation in serum AMH in dairy cows.
  • Milk mid-infrared spectral data as a tool to predict feed intake in lactating Norwegian Red dairy cows

    Berry, Donagh P.; Wallén, Sini E.; Prestløkken, E.; Meuwissen, Theodorus H.E.; McParland, Sinead; the Norwegian Research Council; TINE; GENO; 225233/E40 (Elsevier, 2018-03-28)
    Mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy of milk was used to predict dry matter intake (DMI) and net energy intake (NEI) in 160 lactating Norwegian Red dairy cows. A total of 857 observations were used in leave-one-out cross-validation and external validation to develop and validate prediction equations using 5 different models. Predictions were performed using (multiple) linear regression, partial least squares (PLS) regression, or best linear unbiased prediction (BLUP) methods. Linear regression was implemented using just milk yield (MY) or fat, protein, and lactose concentration in milk (Mcont) or using MY together with body weight (BW) as predictors of intake. The PLS and BLUP methods were implemented using just the MIR spectral information or using the MIR together with Mcont, MY, BW, or NEI from concentrate (NEIconc). When using BLUP, the MIR spectral wavelengths were always treated as random effects, whereas Mcont, MY, BW, and NEIconc were considered to be fixed effects. Accuracy of prediction (R) was defined as the correlation between the predicted and observed feed intake test-day records. When using the linear regression method, the greatest R of predicting DMI (0.54) and NEI (0.60) in the external validation was achieved when the model included both MY and BW. When using PLS, the greatest R of predicting DMI (0.54) and NEI (0.65) in the external validation data set was achieved when using both BW and MY as predictors in combination with the MIR spectra. When using BLUP, the greatest R of predicting DMI (0.54) in the external validation was when using MY together with the MIR spectra. The greatest R of predicting NEI (0.65) in the external validation using BLUP was achieved when the model included both BW and MY in combination with the MIR spectra or when the model included both NEIconc and MY in combination with MIR spectra. However, although the linear regression coefficients of actual on predicted values for DMI and NEI were not different from unity when using PLS, they were less than unity for some of the models developed using BLUP. This study shows that MIR spectral data can be used to predict NEI as a measure of feed intake in Norwegian Red dairy cattle and that the accuracy is augmented if additional, often available data are also included in the prediction model.
  • Factors associated with profitability in pasture-based systems of milk production

    Hanrahan, Liam; McHugh, Noirin; Hennessy, Thia; Moran, Brian; Kearney, R.; Wallace, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence (Elsevier, 2018-03-07)
    The global dairy industry needs to reappraise the systems of milk production that are operated at farm level with specific focus on enhancing technical efficiency and competitiveness of the sector. The objective of this study was to quantify the factors associated with costs of production, profitability, and pasture use, and the effects of pasture use on financial performance of dairy farms using an internationally recognized representative database over an 8-yr period (2008 to 2015) on pasture-based systems. To examine the associated effects of several farm system and management variables on specific performance measures, a series of multiple regression models were developed. Factors evaluated included pasture use [kg of dry matter/ha and stocking rate (livestock units/ha)], grazing season length, breeding season length, milk recording, herd size, dairy farm size (ha), farmer age, discussion group membership, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, fat %, kg of milk fat and protein per cow, kg of milk fat and protein per hectare, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated costs of production per hectare differed by year, geographical location, soil type, level of pasture use, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, breeding season length, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings per cow. The results of the analysis revealed that farm net profit per hectare was associated with pasture use per hectare, year, location, soil type, grazing season length, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, and capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow. Pasture use per hectare was associated with year, location, soil type, stocking rate, dairy farm size, fat %, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, farmer age, capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow, breeding season length, and discussion group membership. On average, over the 8-yr period, each additional tonne of pasture dry matter used increased gross profit by €278 and net profit by €173 on dairy farms. Conversely, a 10% increase in the proportion of purchased feed in the diet resulted in a reduction in net profit per hectare by €97 and net profit by €207 per tonne of fat and protein. Results from this study, albeit in a quota limited environment, have demonstrated that the profitability of pasture-based dairy systems is significantly associated with the proportion of pasture used at the farm level, being cognizant of the levels of purchased feed.

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