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

  • Disease screening profiles and colostrum management practices on 16 Irish suckler beef farms

    O’Shaughnessy, James; Earley, Bernadette; Barrett, Damien; Doherty, Michael L; Crosson, Paul; de Waal, Theo; Mee, John F; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2015)
    Background Calf output is a key element in determining the profitability of a suckler beef enterprise. Infectious agents such as Bovine Virus Diarrhoea (BVD) virus, colostrum management and parasitic challenge can all affect calf output. Prior to the national BVD eradication programme, there was little published information on either the prevalence or effect of BVD in Irish beef herds. There is little published information on colostrum management practices in Irish commercial beef herds and there have also been few studies published on the prevalence of liver fluke or rumen fluke infection in Irish beef herds. Sixteen farms participating in the Teagasc/Farmers Journal BETTER farm beef programme were used in this study. Fourteen herds were screened for the presence of BVD virus in 2010 using RT-PCR. In 13 herds, blood samples were collected from calves (2–14 days of age) in November 2011 - April 2012 to determine their passive immune status using the zinc sulphate turbidity (ZST) test, while in 12 herds, blood and faecal samples were taken in order to determine the level of exposure to gastrointestinal and hepatic helminths. Results The overall prevalence of BVD virus-positive cattle was 0.98% (range 0 - 3% per herd, range 0.6 - 3.0% per positive herd). Eighteen of the 82 calves (22%) sampled had ZST values less than 20 units (herd mean range 17.0 – 38.5 units) indicating a failure of passive transfer. The overall animal-level (herd-level) prevalence of liver fluke and rumen fluke infection in these herds was 40.5% (100%) and 20.8% (75%), respectively. Conclusions The potential costs associated with the presence of animals persistently infected with BVD virus through the increased use of antibiotics; the rate of failure of passive transfer of colostral immunoglobulins and the high prevalence of liver fluke infection in these herds highlight that some Irish suckler beef farms may not be realizing their economic potential due to a range of herd health issues. The use of farm-specific herd health plans should be further encouraged on Irish suckler beef farms.
  • Purulent vaginal discharge diagnosed in pasture-based Holstein-Friesian cows at 21 days postpartum is influenced by previous lactation milk yield and results in diminished fertility

    Ryan, Nicholas J.; Meade, Kieran G.; Williams, Erin J.; O'Farrelly, Cliona; Grant, Jim; Evans, Alexander C.O.; Beltman, Marijke E.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13/S/472 (American Dairy Science Association, 2020-01)
    In a subset of dairy cows, prolonged pathological uterine inflammation results in purulent vaginal discharge (PVD), which can have negative consequences for both fertility and milk production. However, unlike for intensive systems, analysis of the effects of PVD in predominantly pasture-based herds is limited. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of PVD in spring-calving, pasture-based dairy cows on production and reproduction indices, stratified according to previous full-lactation milk yield. We assessed clinical disease as defined by vaginal mucus score (VMS) in 440 Holstein-Friesian cows from 5 farms. Cows were categorized as healthy (VMS 0) or having PVD (VMS 1–3) at 21 d postpartum. We recorded 305-d milk, milk protein, and milk fat yields (kg) before and after disease diagnosis, as well as fertility data, such as services per conception and the calving–conception period (CCP). Using SAS 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC), we analyzed data using PROC MIXED, PROC PHREG, and PROC LOGISTIC to determine the least squares means differences and hazard and odds ratios between the groups, respectively. Overall, a 60% prevalence of PVD was recorded at 21 d postpartum. Milk yield and milk constituents were similar between all VMS categories and between healthy cows and cows with PVD. Although cows in the 4 VMS categories had statistically similar CCP, cows with PVD had a significantly longer CCP than healthy cows on average (9 d). The hazard ratio for cows with PVD was 0.66, indicating a 34% higher risk of a prolonged CCP than healthy cows. Odds ratio analysis determined that cows with PVD were 3 times more likely not to conceive at all, twice as likely not to conceive at first service, twice as likely not to conceive by 100 d postpartum, and 3 times more likely to fail to conceive before 150 d postpartum compared with healthy cows. Cows were retrospectively categorized as having low or high milk yield, based on whether they were above or below the median 305-d milk yield of the study population (6,571 kg) in the lactation before vaginal mucus scoring. Based on a univariate odds ratio, high-yield cows were 1.6 times more likely to present with PVD in the subsequent lactation. The number of services per conception did not differ between healthy and PVD cows in the low- and high-yield groups. In the high-yield group, cows with PVD were 4.9 times more likely not to conceive, 2.7 times more likely to require multiple services to conceive, 2.1 times more likely to remain not pregnant by 100 d postpartum, and 4.4 times more likely to remain not pregnant by 150 d postpartum. The CCP was also significantly longer in cows with PVD than their healthy counterparts (115.9 ± 4.9 and 104 ± 7.4 d, respectively). In conclusion, PVD significantly increased the CCP in all cows, but to a greater extent in cows with a high milk yield in the lactation before disease diagnosis.
  • The gut microbiome influences the bioavailability of olanzapine in rats

    Cussotto, Sofia; Walsh, Jacinta; Golubeva, Anna V.; Zhdanov, Alexander V.; Strain, Conall R.; Fouhy, Fiona; Stanton, Catherine; Dinan, Timothy G.; Hyland, Niall P.; Clarke, Gerard; et al. (The Lancet, 2021-04-02)
    Background The role of the gut microbiome in the biotransformation of drugs has recently come under scrutiny. It remains unclear whether the gut microbiome directly influences the extent of drug absorbed after oral administration and thus potentially alters clinical pharmacokinetics. Methods In this study, we evaluated whether changes in the gut microbiota of male Sprague Dawley rats, as a result of either antibiotic or probiotic administration, influenced the oral bioavailability of two commonly prescribed antipsychotics, olanzapine and risperidone. Findings The bioavailability of olanzapine, was significantly increased (1.8-fold) in rats that had undergone antibiotic-induced depletion of gut microbiota, whereas the bioavailability of risperidone was unchanged. There was no direct effect of microbiota depletion on the expression of major CYP450 enzymes involved in the metabolism of either drug. However, the expression of UGT1A3 in the duodenum was significantly downregulated. The reduction in faecal enzymatic activity, observed during and after antibiotic administration, did not alter the ex vivo metabolism of olanzapine or risperidone. The relative abundance of Alistipes significantly correlated with the AUC of olanzapine but not risperidone. Interpretation Alistipes may play a role in the observed alterations in olanzapine pharmacokinetics. The gut microbiome might be an important variable determining the systemic bioavailability of orally administered olanzapine. Additional research exploring the potential implication of the gut microbiota on the clinical pharmacokinetics of olanzapine in humans is warranted. Funding This research is supported by APC Microbiome Ireland, a research centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), through the Irish Government's National Development Plan (grant no. 12/RC/2273 P2) and by Nature Research-Yakult (The Global Grants for Gut Health; Ref No. 626891).
  • Enduring Behavioral Effects Induced by Birth by Caesarean Section in the Mouse

    Morais, Livia H.; Golubeva, Anna V.; Moloney, Gerard M; Stanton, Catherine; Dinan, Timothy G.; Cryan, John F.; Science Foundation Ireland; European Union; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Science without Borders; et al. (2020-08-20)
    Birth by Caesarean (C)-section impacts early gut microbiota colonization and is associated with an increased risk of developing immune and metabolic disorders. Moreover, alterations of the microbiome have been shown to affect neurodevelopmental trajectories. However, the long-term effects of C-section on neurobehavioral processes remain unknown. Here, we demonstrated that birth by C-section results in marked but transient changes in microbiome composition in the mouse, in particular, the abundance of Bifidobacterium spp. was depleted in early life. Mice born by C-section had enduring social, cognitive, and anxiety deficits in early life and adulthood. Interestingly, we found that these specific behavioral alterations induced by the mode of birth were also partially corrected by co-housing with vaginally born mice. Finally, we showed that supplementation from birth with a Bifidobacterium breve strain, or with a dietary prebiotic mixture that stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria, reverses selective behavioral alterations in C-section mice. Taken together, our data link the gut microbiota to behavioral alterations in C-section-born mice and suggest the possibility of developing adjunctive microbiota-targeted therapies that may help to avert long-term negative consequences on behavior associated with C-section birth mode.
  • Calf disbudding and castration

    Earley, Bernadette; McGee, Mark; O’Riordan, Edward G; Marquette, Gabriela (Veterinary Ireland Journal, 2019-05)
    The degree of tissue damage associated with disbudding is determined by the stage of development of the horn bud, eg. in younger calves, the burning of the vessels surrounding the horn bud is su icient, whereas the whole bud needs to be removed (by levering it out from the side) when the horn is further developed. Setting definitive ages for disbudding or dehorning is di icult since horn bud development occurs later in beef breeds than in the dairy breeds. Castration of bull calves induces a stress response (increase in the stress hormone, cortisol), which is influenced by the age of the calf. Castration-induced pain may be greater among younger calves compared with older calves because their nervous system and coping mechanisms (stress response) are not fully developed.
  • Block Chain and Internet of Nano-Things for Optimizing Chemical Sensing in Smart Farming

    Vimalajeewa, Dixon; Thakur, Subhasis; Breslin, John; Berry, Donagh P.; Balasubramaniam, Sasitharan; Science Foundation Ireland; European Union; 13/1A/1977; 16/RC/3835 (2020)
    The use of Internet of Things (IoT) with the Internet of Nano Things (IoNT) can further expand decision making systems (DMS) to improve reliability as it provides a new spectrum of more granular level data to make decisions. However, growing concerns such as data security, transparency and processing capability challenge their use in real-world applications. DMS integrated with Block Chain (BC) technology can contribute immensely to overcome such challenges. The use of IoNT and IoT along with BC for making DMS has not yet been investigated. This study proposes a BC-powered IoNT (BC-IoNT) system for sensing chemicals level in the context of farm management. This is a critical application for smart farming, which aims to improve sustainable farm practices through controlled delivery of chemicals. BC-IoNT system includes a novel machine learning model formed by using the Langmuir molecular binding model and the Bayesian theory, and is used as a smart contract for sensing the level of the chemicals. A credit model is used to quantify the traceability and credibility of farms to determine if they are compliant with the chemical standards. The accuracy of detecting the chemicals of the distributed BC-IoNT approach was ≥ 90% and the centralized approach was ≤ 80%. Also, the efficiency of sensing the level of chemicals depends on the sampling frequency and variability in chemical level among farms.
  • Qualitative and quantitative differences in endometrial inflammatory gene expression precede the development of bovine uterine disease

    Brewer, Amy; Cormican, Paul; Lim, Joseph J.; Chapwanya, Aspinas; O’Farrelly, Cliona; Meade, Kieran G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13/S/472 (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2020-10-26)
    The transcriptome of the endometrium early postpartum was profled to determine if infammatory gene expression was elevated in cows which subsequently developed uterine disease. Endometrial cytobrush samples were collected at 7 days postpartum (DPP) from 112 Holstein–Friesian dairy cows, from which 27 were retrospectively chosen for RNA-seq on the basis of disease classifcation [ten healthy and an additional 17 diagnosed with cytological endometritis (CYTO), or purulent vaginal discharge (PVD)] at 21 DPP. 297 genes were signifcantly diferentially expressed between cows that remained healthy versus those that subsequently developed PVD, including IL1A and IL1B (adjusted p < 0.05). In contrast, only 3 genes were signifcantly diferentially expressed in cows which subsequently developed CYTO. Accounting for the early physiological infammatory status present in cows which do not develop disease enhanced the detection of diferentially expressed genes associated with CYTO and further expression profling in 51 additional cows showed upregulation of multiple immune genes, including IL1A, IL1B and TNFA. Despite the expected heterogeneity associated with natural infection, enhanced activation of the infammatory response is likely a key contributory feature of both PVD and CYTO development. Prognostic biomarkers of uterine disease would be particularly valuable for seasonal-based dairy systems where any delay to conception undermines sustainability.
  • Growth performance and hematological changes of weaned beef calves diagnosed with respiratory disease using respiratory scoring and thoracic ultrasonography

    Cuevas-Gómez, Inmaculada; McGee, Mark; McCabe, Matthew; Cormican, Paul; O’Riordan, Edward; McDaneld, Tara; Earley, Bernadette; US-Ireland Tripartite Grant; 2018US-IRL200 (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2020-10-23)
    This study investigated (i) the effect of clinical bovine respiratory disease (BRD) and associated lung consolidations on growth performance and hematological profiles of recently weaned beef calves and (ii) the relationship between clinical respiratory signs and lung consolidation detected by thoracic ultrasonography (TUS). One hundred and fifty-three weaned beef calves (209 (SD; 35.8) days old and 306 (SD; 26.3) kg, at arrival) purchased and transported from auction markets were accommodated indoors in concrete slatted floor pens. Calves were weighed weekly from arrival until d 28 and on d 65 post-arrival. Assessment of BRD and blood sample collection for hematological profiles were performed on scheduled days (at arrival, on d 7, 14 and 28) and on other days upon BRD diagnosis. Animals were assessed for BRD using a total clinical respiratory score (CRS) of five clinical signs (rectal temperature, ear position, cough, nasal secretion and eye secretion with each ranging from normal (0) to abnormal (3)), and TUS scores (normal (0) to lung consolidation ≥ 1 cm2 (2)). Based on CRS, 35% of calves were CRS+ (CRS ≥5) and 65% were CRS- (CRS <5). Although no lung consolidations (TUS-) were detected at arrival, 34% of calves developed lung consolidation (≥ 1 cm2 ) (TUS+) during the first 28 d post-arrival. Only fever (>39.6o C) and nasal discharge were weakly associated (r 0.19, P <0.05) with lung consolidation. On the day of BRD detection, neutrophil number and neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio was 58% and 73% greater, respectively, in BRD calves with lung consolidation compared to healthy calves. From d 0 to 65, calf ADG did not differ (P >0.05) between CRS+ and CRS- calves, but was 0.09 kg/d lower (P <0.05) for TUS+ compared to TUS- calves. Calves classified as BRD (CRS+TUS ≥5) with lung consolidation had lower (P <0.05) ADG from arrival until d 28 than healthy calves and BRD calves without lung consolidation (0.11 ± 0.10 vs. 0.53 ± 0.07 vs. 0.57 ± 0.10 kg/d, respectively); however, no differences in ADG were observed from d 0 to 65. Conventional methods to diagnose BRD failed to detect calves with lung lesions. Thoracic ultrasonography is a useful tool to detect lung lesions and its implementation in combination with CRS should provide a more accurate and early diagnosis of BRD, which is fundamental to successful treatment, animal welfare and growth performance.
  • Early immune suppression leads to uncontrolled mite proliferation and potent host inflammatory responses in a porcine model of crusted versus ordinary scabies

    Bhat, Sajad A.; Walton, Shelley F.; Ventura, Tomer; Liu, Xiaosong; McCarthy, James S.; Burgess, Stewart T. G.; Mounsey, Kate E.; Australian Research Council; Australian National Health and Medical Research Council; DE120101701; et al. (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2020-09-04)
    Scabies is a neglected tropical disease of global significance. Our understanding of hostparasite interactions has been limited, particularly in crusted scabies (CS), a severe clinical manifestation involving hyper-infestation of Sarcoptes scabiei mites. Susceptibility to CS may be associated with immunosuppressive conditions but CS has also been seen in cases with no identifiable risk factor or immune deficit. Due to ethical and logistical difficulties with undertaking research on clinical patients with CS, we adopted a porcine model which parallels human clinical manifestations. Transcriptomic analysis using microarrays was used to explore scabies pathogenesis, and to identify early events differentiating pigs with ordinary (OS) and crusted scabies. Pigs with OS (n = 4), CS (n = 4) and non-infested controls (n = 4) were compared at pre-infestation, weeks 1, 2, 4 and 8 post-infestation. In CS relative to OS, there were numerous differentially expressed genes including pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL17A, IL8, IL19, IL20 and OSM) and chemokines involved in immune cell activation and recruitment (CCL20, CCL27 and CXCL6). The influence of genes associated with immune regulation (CD274/PD-L1 and IL27), immune signalling (TLR2, TLR8) and antigen presentation (RFX5, HLA-5 and HLA-DOB) were highlighted in the early host response to CS. We observed similarities with gene expression profiles associated with psoriasis and atopic dermatitis and confirmed previous observations of Th2/17 pronounced responses in CS. This is the first comprehensive study describing transcriptional changes associated with the development of CS and significantly, the distinction between OS and CS. This provides a basis for clinical follow-up studies, potentially identifying new control strategies for this severely debilitating disease
  • Effect of teatcup removal settings on milking efficiency and milk quality in a pasture-based automatic milking system

    Silva Boloña, P.; Reinemann, D.J.; Upton, J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; University of Wisconsin–Madison; Lely (American Dairy Science Association, 2019-09)
    In automatic milking systems (AMS), it is important to maximize the amount of milk harvested per day to increase profitability. One strategy to achieve this goal is to reduce the time it takes to milk each cow. Several studies in conventional milking systems have shown that milking time can be reduced by increasing the milk flow rate at which the teatcup is removed. One study analyzed the effect of increasing the milk flow switch point on milking time in a confinement AMS. No research has been conducted on teatcup removal settings in pasture-based automatic milking systems. Furthermore, not all AMS remove the teatcups based on absolute milk flow rate (kg/min); hence, it is important to study alternative strategies. The aim of this experiment was to measure the effect of 3 novel teatcup removal strategies on box time (time in the AMS), milking time, somatic cell count (SCC), and milk production rate of cows milked in a pasture-based automatic milking system. Each teatcup removal strategy in this study was applied for a period of 1 wk to 1 of 3 groups of cows and then switched to the following group until cows had transitioned through all treatments. The teatcup removal strategies consisted of removing the teatcup when the quarter flow rate fell below 20% of the quarter rolling average milk flow rate (TRS20), when quarter milk flow rate was below 30% of the rolling average milk flow rate (TRS30), and when quarter milk flow rate dropped below 50% of the rolling average milk flow rate (TRS50). A limit prevented teatcup removal if the calculated milk flow rate for teatcup removal was above 0.5 kg/min. This limit was in place for all treatments; however, it only affected the TRS50 treatment. The TRS30 strategy had 9-s shorter milking time and 11-s shorter box time than the TRS20 removal strategy. The TRS50 strategy had 8-s shorter milking time and 9-s shorter box time than the TRS20 teatcup removal strategy. There was no significant difference in milking time or box time between the TRS30 and TRS50 teatcup removal strategies, probably due to the large variability in milk flow rate at teatcup removal. The TRS20 and TRS30 strategies did not differ in SCC or milk production rate. The 0.5 kg/min limit, which affected roughly 25% of milkings in the TRS50 treatment, may have distorted the effect that this setting had on milk time, box time, milk production rate, or SCC. The difference in box time for the TRS30 and TRS50 strategies could allow for more than 3 extra milkings per day
  • Evaluation of an investigative model in dairy herds with high calf perinatal mortality rates in Switzerland

    Mock, Thomas; Mee, John F.; Detwiler, Martina; Rodriguez-Campos, Sabrina; Hüsler, Jürg; Michel, Brigitte; Häfliger, Irene M.; Drogemuller, Cord; Bodmer, Michele; Hirsbrunner, Gaby; et al. (Theriogenology, 2020-02-24)
    The objective of this study was to evaluate an investigative model which encompassed the risk factors, incidence, timing and causes of perinatal mortality (PM) (0–48 h) on high risk dairy farms (PM of >5% in the previous year) in Switzerland. This pilot-study was carried out on 47 predominantly Holstein PM calves from 21 dairy farms, between September 2016 and January 2018. Gross pathological examinations of calves and placentae as well as histopathological examinations of internal organs and placental tissue were performed. Further investigations included microbiological examinations: broad-spectrum bacterial and fungal culture, detection of Chlamydia abortus, Coxiella burnetii, pathogenic Leptospira spp. and Neospora caninum by real-time PCR (qPCR) and of bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) by Ag-ELISA. Maternal blood samples were used for serology of bovine herpesvirus 1 (BHV-1), Brucella abortus, Chlamydia abortus, Coxiella burnetii and nine pathogenic leptospiral serovars and the evaluation of trace element status. A questionnaire was completed with the farmer, which included general farm characteristics and case-related data. Inbreeding coefficients (IC) were calculated for pure-bred matings. At the farm-level, the PM rate was 10.0% (5.3–28.2%) and at the cow-level, 11.5%. These values, from high-risk farms, were approximately five-times higher than the contemporary national bovine PM rate (2.3%) in Switzerland. The risk factors associated with these high PM rates were the self-selection of high risk herds, the high proportion of primiparae in these herds (45%) and the evidence of widespread pathogenic infections on these farms (exposure: 67% of herds, 53% of dams; infection: 57% of herds, 45% of calves). The majority (68.1%) of calves died intrapartum. The most commonly diagnosed initiating/ultimate cause of death (UCOD) was infection (34%) of which Coxiella burnetii was the most frequently detected pathogen, by antigen. The most frequently diagnosed proximate cause of death (PCOD) was asphyxia (44.7%), though multiple PCOD was also common (21.3%). This study was the first detailed investigation of bovine PM in Switzerland. Infectious causes were diagnosed more frequently than expected. While the findings from these high PM Swiss herds may have limited external validity, the investigative model adopted and the detailed research methodologies employed can be replicated and re-evaluated, respectively, in future studies on PM internationally.
  • Prepubertal nutrition alters Leydig cell functional capacity and timing of puberty

    Anand-Ivell, Ravinder; Byrne, Colin J.; Arnecke, Jonas; Fair, Sean; Lonergan, Pat; Kenny, David A.; Ivell, Richard; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/S/116 (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2019-11-21)
    Leydig cell functional capacity reflects the numbers and differentiation status of the steroidogenic Leydig cells in the testes and becomes more or less fixed in early adulthood with the final establishment of the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis after puberty. Factors influencing Leydig cell functional capacity and its role in puberty are poorly understood. Using a bovine model of dairy bulls fed four different nutritional regimes from 1 month to 12 months, and applying circulating Insulin-like peptide 3 (INSL3) as an accurate biomarker of Leydig cell functional capacity, showed that a high plane of nutrition in the first 6 months of life, but not later, significantly increased INSL3 in young adulthood. Moreover, INSL3 concentration at 4 months indicated a marked differential in early feeding regime and correlated well (negatively) with the timing of puberty, as reflected by the age in days for the first production of an ejaculate with >50 million sperm and >10% forward motility, as well as with testis size at 18 months. Reversing the diet at 6 months was unable to rectify the trend in either parameter, unlike for other parameters such as testosterone, body weight, and scrotal circumference. This study has shown that early prepubertal nutrition is a key factor in the development of Leydig cell functional capacity in early adulthood and appears to be a key driver in the dynamic progression of puberty.
  • Factors affecting ewe longevity on sheep farms in three European countries

    McLaren, A.; McHugh, Noirin; Lambe, N. R.; Pabiou, T.; Wall, E.; Boman, I. A.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Research Council of Norway; Norwegian Association of Sheep and Goat Breeders; UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2020-08)
    The ability to identify ewes that can outperform their contemporaries, in terms of how long they remain productive in the flock, will help towards improving flock efficiency and profitability. The main objectives of this study were to: (1) identify the main reasons for mortality or culling within diverse sheep production systems in Ireland, Norway and UK; (2) investigate the influence of early life factors on ewe longevity within each of these systems; and (3) determine whether common approaches or recommendations could be employed to improve ewe longevity. The main reasons for mortality or culling were, in addition to old age, mastitis (Irish and Norwegian sheep) and tooth loss (UK hill sheep). In each country, there were significant differences in age at last lambing due to the year the ewe was born (but in no consistent pattern), and due to her flock of birth (P < 0.05). From the Norwegian data, there was some indication ewes from younger dams lambed for the last time at a younger age, however, this trend was not seen in the Irish or UK data. Ewes born as singletons, in the Irish data, lambed for the last time at an older age than those that had been born in larger litters, although this was not observed in the other data sets. Age at first lambing and some breed proportions (proportion of Texel and Suffolk particularly) of the animal (both not fitted in the Norwegian or UK analyses) were found to have a highly significant (P < 0.0001) effect on age at last lambing in the Irish analyses. The results suggest that longevity is influenced by a range of different factors and the early life predictors investigated could not be used to provide consistent recommendations across countries, production systems and breeds that would influence ewe longevity. One common definition or solution to select ewes for longer productive life in divergent sheep flocks may not be appropriate.
  • Application of next generation sequencing for the elucidation of genes and pathways involved in the host response to bovine respiratory syncytial virus

    Johnston, D; Earley, B; McCabe, M. S.; Blackshields, G.; Lemon, K.; Duffy, C.; McMenamy, M.; Cosby, S. L.; Kim, J.; Taylor, J. F.; et al. (2021-06-16)
    Objective: To identify genes and pathways involved in the host response to bovine respiratory syncytial virus.
  • Characteristics of offspring derived from conventional and X-sorted bovine sperm

    Maicas, C.; Hutchinson, I.A.; Cromie, A.R.; Lonergan, P.; Butler, Stephen; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (American Dairy Science Association, 2020-08)
    The objective of this retrospective study was to compare survival during the first year of life and adult performance of offspring derived from artificial insemination (AI) with X-sorted or conventional sperm processed from the same ejaculates. We analyzed a data set that included AI of dairy heifers and lactating cows with fresh conventional sperm (3 × 106 sperm per straw), fresh X-sorted sperm (1 or 2 × 106 sperm per straw), or frozen X-sorted sperm (2 × 106 sperm per straw). The data set contained records of 5,179 offspring born on 396 farms. Offspring were classified as born from conventional sperm (CONV) if they were the product of an insemination with fresh conventional sperm, or born from X-sorted sperm (SS) if they were product of any of the 3 X-sorted sperm treatments. Generalized linear mixed models were used to evaluate the effect of sperm treatment on (1) survival during the first year of life; (2) reproductive performance, lactation performance, and survival of female offspring; and (3) slaughter characteristics of male offspring. Stillbirth rates and mortality rates during the first 2 mo of life were greater for male calves (2.8 and 5.0%, respectively) than for female calves (1.6 and 2.0%, respectively). No differences between offspring derived from SS and CONV were detected for incidences of stillbirth or mortality during the first 12 mo of life within sex of calf. Reproductive performance, milk volume, milk fat, milk protein yields during first; second; and third lactations, and survival to third lactation did not differ between female offspring derived from CONV and SS. Across all age groups, CONV steers had heavier carcasses than SS steers (325.3 vs. 318.3 kg), but there were no differences in weight between CONV and SS steers within any of the age groups (≤24, 25–27, 28–30, and >30 mo of age). The distribution of slaughter age did not differ between CONV and SS steers when the analysis was restricted to herds that reared steers derived from both types of sperm. Carcass conformation and fat scores of steers were not affected by sperm treatment. There was no difference in carcass weight between young bulls (≤2 yr) derived from CONV or SS. In conclusion, the results provide no evidence of differences in survival during the first year of life between offspring derived from CONV or SS, or for any of the reproductive and lactation performance characteristics studied between female offspring derived from CONV or SS. Modest differences in carcass weight between CONV and SS steers were detected, but this may reflect differences in management and husbandry in the rearing herds rather than the sex-sorting process. A controlled study using steers derived from conventional or X-sorted sperm from split ejaculates and reared under the same husbandry conditions is needed to clarify whether there is a true difference in body weight gain due to the sex-sorting process.
  • Stability of powdered infant formula during secondary shelf-life and domestic practices

    Condurso, Concetta; Cincotta, Fabrizio; Merlino, Maria; STANTON, CATHERINE; Verzera, Antonella; Italian Ministry for Education, University and Research (MIUR); AIM 1823923-3; CUP J44I18000190006 (Elsevier BV, 2020-10)
    Powdered infant formula (PIF) and lactose-free PIF during secondary shelf-life (SSL) and under domestic practices was investigated to verify their stability up to the expiration date and under the label instructions for milk reconstitution. Particular attention was given to variations in Maillard reaction and lipid peroxidation products identified and quantified by HS-SPME-GC-MS. Two types of PIF: Type A based on bovine milk and Type B a lactose-free product based on glucose syrup were analysed. The PIF were analysed at regular time intervals beyond the labelled expiration date after opening, and reconstituted using water at 70 °C, 80 °C and 90 °C. A large number of volatile compounds were identified and significant statistically differences resulted during SSL and water temperature used for reconstitution that were correlated to the PIF composition. The study showed that water temperature for reconstitution of samples and the SSL has to be adapted to PIF composition.
  • The use of subjectively assessed muscular and skeletal traits on live cattle to aid in differentiation between animal genetically divergent in carcass kill out metrics

    Berry, Donagh; Coyne, J. M.; Doyle, J.; Evans, R. D.; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 16/RC/3835 (Elsevier BV, 2020-04)
    Subjective linear scoring of live beef cattle is routinely undertaken as part of breed society regulations or as part of national breeding programs; linear scores describe biological extremes of animals for a range of different traits reflecting muscularity, skeletal development, and functionality. The objective of the present study was to quantify the usefulness of these linear scores measured on live growing beef cattle to predict genetic merit for kill out (KO) percent and the difference between live-weight at slaughter and carcass weight (herein known as KO difference). The data used consisted of linear scores for 16 traits on up to 67,167 cattle as well as KO information on 31,827 cattle; 1,166 animals had records for both sets of traits. Variance components were estimated using univariate animal linear mixed models while covariance components between the linear scores and the KO traits were estimated using a series of bivariate sire linear mixed models. In an additional series of analyses, the KO metrics were adjusted phenotypically for differences in live-weight at slaughter through its inclusion as a covariate in the statistical model. Heritability estimates of the linear scores varied from 0.06 (width at pins) to 0.37 (development of hind-quarter); the heritability of KO percent and KO difference were estimated to be 0.53 and 0.37, respectively. Both the phenotypic and genetic correlations between the muscular type traits and KO percent were moderately positive, albeit the genetic correlations were stronger. The phenotypic correlations ranged from 0.27 (development of inner thigh) to 0.37 (development of hind quarter) while the genetic correlations varied from 0.40 (development of inner thigh and development of loin) to 0.60 (development of hind quarter); in all cases, adjusting for differences in live-weight at slaughter had minimal impact on the estimated correlations. With the exception of depth of rump, the phenotypic and genetic correlations between the skeletal traits with KO percent were all close to zero (≤|0.24|) irrespective of whether or not differences in live-weight at slaughter were accounted for. While the genetic correlations between the muscular traits and KO difference not adjusted for differences in live-weight at slaughter were all close to zero (≤|0.30|), the correlations strengthened (≥|0.39|) once adjusted to a common live-weight at slaughter. The opposite was true for the genetic correlations between the skeletal traits and KO difference. In all, the results suggest that the muscular linear scores assessed subjectively on live animals at, on average, 10 months of age are a useful genetic (and phenotypic) predictor of KO percent at, on average, 21 months of age, but also the quantity of live-weight that does not end up as carcass, once adjusted to a common live-weight.
  • Effect of breed and castration on production and carcass traits of male lambs following an intensive finishing period

    Claffey, Noel A; Fahey, Alan G; Gkarane, Vasiliki; Moloney, Aidan P; Monahan, Frank J; Diskin, Michael G (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2018-06-15)
    The practice of crossbreeding using a terminal sire and the use of intact rather than castrated animals has the potential to increase the productivity of lambs produced from the hill sheep sector. The objective of this study was to compare the production and carcass characteristics of purebred Scottish Blackface (SB) and Texel cross Scottish Blackface (TXSB) ram and wether lambs fed on a concentrate diet and slaughtered at different ages. Two hundred spring born male lambs (average birth age ±SD 9.53 d) were assigned to a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement with two breeds SB (n=100) and TXSB (n=100)) and two sexes (wether: n=100 and ram: n=100)). Lambs were harvested following a 36 d ad libitum concentrate indoor finishing period. The study was carried out over five harvest batches between October and April. The mean ages of the lambs at harvest (n = 40, 20 TXSB and 20 SB lambs) in October, November, January, March and April were 196, 242, 293, 344 and 385 days, respectively The TXSB lambs were heavier at slaughter than SB lambs (P < 0.001) and ram lambs were heavier at slaughter than wether lambs (P < 0.01). Improved average daily gain (ADG) (P < 0.001), lower feed conversion ratio (FCR) (which was calculated by dividing total feed intake by total weight gain) (P < 0.001) and higher feed intake (P < 0.05) were recorded in TXSB lambs with consistency across the five harvest time points. Rams had greater ADG (P < 0.001) and FCR (P < 0.05) compared to wether lambs and no differences were observed between sexes for feed intake. The TXSB (P < 0.001) lambs had higher (P < 0.001) dressing percentages compared to SB while wether lambs had greater dressing percentages compared to rams. The TXSB lambs had heavier carcass weights (P < 0.001) with higher conformation grades (P < 0.001) and less fat cover (P < 0.001) than SB lambs while ram lambs had heavier (P < 0.001) carcasses than wether lambs. There was greater fat cover on the loin muscles of SB (P < 0.001) and wether (P < 0.001) lambs compared to TXSB and ram lambs, respectively. The results from this study suggest that TXSB lamb’s offer hill sheep farmers a potential strategy for improved lamb production efficiency, while ram lambs offer lamb finishers increased growth rates, higher FCR and produce a more desirable carcass than do wether lambs.
  • Feed and production efficiency of young crossbred beef cattle stratified on a terminal total merit index1

    Kelly, David N; Conroy, Stephen B; Murphy, Craig P; Sleator, Roy D; Berry, Donagh; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Science Foundation Ireland; 17/S/235; 16/RC/3835 (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2020-07-01)
    Few studies have attempted to quantify the association between a terminal total merit index with phenotypic feed and production efficiency in beef cattle, particularly when feed efficiency is itself explicitly absent as a goal trait in the index. The objective of the present study was to quantify the differences in phenotypic performance for feed intake, feed efficiency, and carcass traits of crossbred bulls, steers, and heifers differing in a terminal total merit index. A validation population of 614 bulls, steers, and heifers that were evaluated for feed intake and efficiency in the same feedlot and subsequently slaughtered at the end of their test period was constructed. The Irish national genetic evaluations for a terminal index of calving performance, docility, feed intake, and carcass traits were undertaken with the phenotypic records of animals present in the validation population masked. The validation population animals were subsequently stratified into four groups, within sex, according to their terminal index value. Mixed models were used to quantify the association between terminal genetic merit and phenotypic performance; whether the associations differed by sex were also investigated. The regression coefficient of phenotypic feed intake, carcass weight, carcass conformation, or carcass fat on its respective estimated breeding values was 0.86 kg dry matter 0.91 kg, 1.01 units, and 1.29 units, respectively, which are close to the expectation of one. On average, cattle in the very high terminal index stratum had a 0.63 kg DM/d lower feed intake, a 25.05 kg heavier carcass, a 1.82 unit better carcass conformation (scale 1 to 15), and a 1.24 unit less carcass fat score (scale 1 to 15), relative to cattle in the very low terminal index stratum. Cattle of superior total genetic merit were also more feed efficient (i.e., had a lower energy conversion ratio, lower residual feed intake, and greater residual gain), had a greater proportion of their live-weight as carcass weight (i.e., better dressing percentage) and were slaughtered at a younger age relative to their inferior total genetic merit counterparts. This study provides validation of an all-encompassing total merit index and demonstrates the benefits of selection on a total merit index for feed and production efficiency, which should impart confidence among stakeholders in the contribution of genetic selection to simultaneous improvements in individual animal performance and efficiency.
  • Effect of forage to concentrate ratio and duration of feeding on growth and feed conversion efficiency of male lambs

    Claffey, Noel A; Fahey, Alan G; Gkarane, Vasiliki; Moloney, Aidan P; Monahan, Frank J; Diskin, Michael G (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2018-06-19)
    Rations (dry matter basis) for spring born male lambs consisting of concentrates ad libitum (CON), 50:50 (50% concentrate:50% forage) and forage ad libitum (FORG) were evaluated across feeding periods of 3 durations (36 d, 54 d and 72 d). Lambs on CON diets were offered ad libitum access to concentrate along with 400g of fresh weight silage (daily), while 50:50 diets were offered 0.9 kg and 3.0 kg of concentrate and silage, respectively. Lambs on FORG were offered ad libitum access to 25.5% dry matter silage. These rations were fed to 99 spring born male Texel cross Scottish Blackface lambs which were assigned to a 3 × 3 factorial arrangement. Lambs were slaughtered following completion of their respective treatments. Lambs fed CON diets had greater ADG, FCE, and carcass weight (P < 0.001) and carcasses with greater conformation score (P < 0.001) than lambs fed 50:50 or FORG diets. Duration of feeding had no effect on production variables across all three concentrate inclusion levels. It was concluded that the inclusion of concentrates is needed to adequately finish lambs fed indoors. Feeding lamb’s 50:50 diets resulted in modest responses and may be a viable option for finishing lambs or to maintain growth in lambs when the cost of concentrate feed is high relative to the financial return on the lamb meat.

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