One of the key messages from the Teagasc 2030 Foresight Report was the central importance of grass based agricultural systems in underpinning the competitiveness and profitability of the agri-food sector in the emerging bio-economy. A new grassland research and innovation programme has been established to reflect this. The initial objective set out for the new Grassland Research and Innovation programme is to generate and procure evidence-based knowledge to support innovation, technology transfer and education in the key areas of Irish grass production including grass breeding, growth, fertilisation, utilisation, nutritional value, and develop grazing systems that will underpin the profitability, competitiveness and sustainability of the sector and enhance food security.

Recent Submissions

  • Effect of feeding single-dam or pooled colostrum on maternally derived immunity in dairy calves

    Barry, J.; Bokkers, E.A.M.; Sayers, Riona; Murphy, J.P.; de Boer, I.J.M.; Kennedy, E.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship (Elsevier, 2021-08-26)
    The role of colostrum management in providing adequate immunological protection to neonatal calves has been widely investigated, and thresholds for colostrum quality, as well as optimum volume and timing for colostrum feeding have been established. However, limited information is available on the effect of colostrum source (single dam or pooled) on passive immunity, as well as subsequent antibody survival in the calf. This study aimed to assess the effect of feeding single-dam colostrum (own and other dam) or pooled colostrum on transfer of passive immunity, and also investigate the rate of depletion of disease-specific antibodies among dairy calves. In total, 320 cows and 119 dairy heifer calves were enrolled in the study. Calves were blood-sampled immediately after birth and received either own-dam, other-dam, or pooled colostrum. Calves were blood-sampled at 24 h to assess serum IgG concentrations and at monthly intervals thereafter to document disease-specific antibody survival. Mean colostrum IgG concentration was higher for other-dam treatment group, whereas own-dam and pooled treatments were similar. For all treatment groups, the mean IgG concentration was >80 mg/mL, exceeding the quality threshold of 50 mg/mL. Mean calf serum IgG concentration was lower for calves fed pooled colostrum compared with those that received colostrum from a single cow. There was a negative association with 24-h serum IgG and calf birth bodyweight; calves <30 kg at birth had the highest 24-h serum IgG concentration. Survival of antibodies to bovine viral diarrhea, Salmonella infection, leptospirosis, bovine parainfluenza 3 virus, bovine respiratory syncytical virus, rotavirus, and coronavirus was not associated with colostrum source; however, antibodies to infectious bovine rhinotracheitis had a greater period of survival among calves fed own-dam colostrum. We found that feeding single-dam colostrum can thus improve calf immunity through increased serum IgG levels and antibody survival rates. Furthermore, we hypothesize that immune exclusion may occur with pooled colostrum; therefore, providing pooled colostrum may still be a good practice as long as it can be ensured that enough antibodies are absorbed into the blood stream to deal with pathogens calves may encounter because different dams may have antibodies against different strains of viruses and bacteria, yielding cross protection.
  • Milk production per cow and per hectare of spring-calving dairy cows grazing swards differing in Lolium perenne L. ploidy and Trifolium repens L. composition

    Gilliland, T.J.; Delaby, L.; Guy, C.; Dineen, M.; Coughlan, F.; McCarthy, B.; Irish Dairy Levy; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme (Elsevier, 2019-09-30)
    Grazed grass is the cheapest feed available for dairy cows in temperate regions; thus, to maximize profits, dairy farmers must optimize the use of this high-quality feed. Previous research has defined the benefits of including white clover (Trifolium repens L.) in grass swards for milk production, usually at reduced nitrogen usage and stocking rate. The aim of this study was to quantify the responses in milk production of dairy cows grazing tetraploid or diploid perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.; PRG) sown with and without white clover but without reducing stocking rate or nitrogen usage. We compared 4 grazing treatments in this study: tetraploid PRG-only swards, diploid PRG-only swards, tetraploid with white clover swards, and diploid with white clover swards. Thirty cows were assigned to each treatment, and swards were rotationally grazed at a farm-level stocking rate of 2.75 cows/ha and a nitrogen fertilizer rate of 250 kg/ha annually. Sward white clover content was 23.6 and 22.6% for tetraploid with white clover swards and diploid with white clover swards, respectively. Milk production did not differ between the 2 ploidies during this 4-yr study, but cows grazing the PRG-white clover treatments had significantly greater milk yields (+596 kg/cow per year) and milk solid yields (+48 kg/cow per year) compared with cows grazing the PRG-only treatments. The PRG-white clover swards also produced 1,205 kg of DM/ha per year more herbage, which was available for conserving and buffer feeding in spring when these swards were less productive than PRG-only swards. Although white clover is generally combined with reduced nitrogen fertilizer use, this study provides evidence that including white clover in either tetraploid or diploid PRG swards, combined with high levels of nitrogen fertilizer, can effectively increase milk production per cow and per hectare.
  • Ruminant grassland production systems in Ireland

    O'Donovan, Michael; Hennessy, Deirdre; Creighton, Philip (Teagasc, 2021-01-12)
    In Ireland grazing systems provide the basis of sustainable livestock production, as grazed grass is the cheapest feed source of nutrients for ruminants. The main future objective for these systems is to achieve high grass utilisation, ensure system sustainability and maintain extremely high animal health and welfare. There is no reason why all three cannot be combined. Ireland’s national farm policy targets growth in exports to €19 billion per annum by 2025. This figure represents an 85% increase from the current 3 yr average. There are major improvements required in the areas of grassland management and its conversion into milk and meat to fulfil such a target. While every farm situation is unique due to varying soil types, climatic conditions, stocking rates and management capabilities, herbage production and utilisation is below optimum on most farms. Irish farms, especially dairy farms, are expanding and will continue to do so over the next number of years. Increasing stocking rates and more compact calving and lambing has resulted in increased spring feed demand. Extra grass needs be grown and utilised in this period to minimise the use of supplementary feed. This paper outlines the importance of grassland on Irish farms, and where farms can improve grassland management, to increase output, lower farm costs and improve further farm system sustainability.
  • Irish Grassland Research — main achievements and advancements in the past 60 yrs and where to progress to next

    O’Donovan, Michael; Dillon, P.; Conaghan, Patrick; Hennessy, Deirdre (Teagasc, 2022-02-09)
    In the last 60 yr Irish grassland production has increased substantially in no small part due to high-quality fundamental grassland research. Increased production from grassland has arisen from improved understanding (research and practice) of soil and plant nutrition, plant physiology and variety improvement, while improved understanding of feed evaluation, ruminant nutrition, grazing management and silage technology has contributed to increased utilisation of grassland. Annual grass DM production varies from 12.7 to 15.0 t DM/ha based on Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine grass variety trials. More recent data from PastureBase Ireland indicate that average annual grass production (2020) on efficient dairy and dry stock farms is 13.5 and 10.0 t DM/ha, respectively. Ireland is now one of the world leaders in grassland research, particularly in the area of grazing utilisation, the development and use of grassland databases, decision support systems and grass selection indices for grass varieties. Future pasture-based systems must extend beyond food production to deliver additional benefits to farmers, to consumers and the wider society. Future systems will require more robust grazing animals with healthier functional traits, more diverse swards supporting improved animal performance and require fewer fertiliser and chemical inputs, and will support more biodiversity and enhanced carbon storage.
  • Short communication: Effect of feeding pooled and nonpooled high-quality colostrum on passive transfer of immunity, morbidity, and mortality in dairy calves

    King, Ailbhe; Chigerwe, Munashe; Barry, John; Murphy, John P.; Rayburn, Maire C.; Kennedy, Emer; University of California Davis (American Dairy Science Association, 2020-02)
    Pooling colostrum is commonly practiced on Irish dairy farms. Pooling can result in dilution when colostrums with high and low IgG concentrations are mixed, thereby predisposing calves to failure of passive immunity. The objectives of this study were to compare IgG concentrations in colostrum from individual cows with colostrum pooled from several cows, and assess serum IgG concentrations, morbidity, and mortality among calves fed colostrum from their own dam, from a different cow, or pooled from several cows. We hypothesized that pooling colostrum reduces IgG concentration due to dilution compared with colostrum from individual cows, and that calves fed pooled colostrum achieve lower serum IgG concentrations than calves fed colostrum from individual cows. Calves were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: (1) fed colostrum from their own dam (n = 20); (2) fed colostrum from a different dam (n = 20); or (3) fed pooled colostrum (n = 18). A sample of colostrum fed to each calf was collected. Serum samples were collected from calves at birth (0 h) and at 24 h after colostrum feeding. Colostrum and serum IgG concentrations were measured by radial immunodiffusion. Calves were weighed at birth and at weaning, and the health status of each calf was assessed twice daily. Health assessment was based on general demeanor, rectal temperature, fecal consistency, respiratory rate, and the presence of cough, nasal, or ocular discharge. Colostrum and serum IgG concentrations, and weaning weights were compared using ANOVA. Associations between group and morbidity or mortality rates were compared using χ2 or Fisher’s exact tests. Median and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) of IgG concentrations of colostrum were 99.4 (81.8–111.5), 95.2 (84.1–107.2), and 100.7 (90.5–104.4) g/L for own dam, different dam, and pooled groups, respectively. We did not find any differences in colostrum IgG concentrations among the colostrum sources. Median (95% CI) serum IgG concentrations at 24 h were 52.0 (45.6–65.9), 55.7 (51.2–65.9), and 53.1 (46.2–63.7) g/L for calves that received colostrum from own dam, different dam, and pooled, respectively. All calves achieved adequate passive immunity. Serum IgG concentrations at 24 h, weaning weights, and proportions of morbidity and mortality were not different among the 3 groups. Our results suggest that on dairy farms where median colostrum IgG concentrations are high and colostrum management is optimal, pooling has a minimal effect on passive immunity and subsequent calf health.
  • Concentrate feeding and feed ingredients for growing-finishing

    McGee, Mark; O’Riordan, Edward; Moloney, Aidan; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (La Revue Scientifique, 2019-10-18)
    Small improvements in feed efficiency, especially during indoor ‘winter’ feeding periods, can have a relatively large influence on farm profitability. Increasing the level of concentrates in the diet reduces forage intake and increases live weight and carcass weight gains, although at a decreasing rate. Subsequent compensatory growth at pasture diminishes the advantage of concentrate supplementation of young cattle. High digestibility grass silage with moderate concentrate supplementation can sustain a large proportion of the cattle performance achieved on highconcentrate diets. Feeding management is more important when feeding concentrates ad libitum than as a supplement. The relative nutritive (and economic) value of by-product feed ingredients depends on their inclusion level in the ration, and the amount of concentrates fed.
  • Grassland Phosphorus and Nitrogen Fertiliser Replacement value of Dairy Processing Dewatered Sludge

    Ashekuzzaman, S.M.; Forrestal, Patrick; Richards, Karl G.; Daly, Karen; Fenton, Owen; Enterprise Ireland; Dairy Industry Partners; TC2014 0016 (Elsevier, 21-11-20)
    Dairy processing sludge is currently a bio-based fertiliser being spread to grassland without knowledge pertaining to its phosphorus (P) or nitrogen (N) fertiliser replacement value. This creates uncertainty of desired crop yield achievement and unproductive nutrient recycling and also poses a great challenge to the dairy milk processing industry in promoting their food processing by-product as valuable recyclable fertiliser. Therefore four representative samples, i.e. two activated sludge (aluminium-precipitated (Al-sludge) and iron-precipitated (Fe-sludge)), and two lime-stabilised calcium-precipitated sludge (Ca1- and Ca2-sludge), were examined at field scale to assess P and N availability for crop yield and uptake in comparison to reference mineral fertilisers over one seasonal year. The field plots were set-up on a light textured clay loam soil within the optimum plant available P (Morgan's soil P index 3, i.e. medium / adequate soil P level) in two separate adjoining areas consisting of P and N availability experiments. Each experiment consisted of 40 plots (each 8×2 m2) of 10 treatments with 4 replications arranged in a randomised complete block design. All dairy sludge (40 kg-P ha−1) and mineral P treatments (rates 0–50 kg-P ha−1) produced similar yields and uptake, and crop P was not affected by sludge applications despite the presence of high Al, Ca and Fe. During the experiment there was no significant change in P index (stayed at index 3) indicating that no treatment caused a decline in P into index 2 (i.e. low soil P level), therefore replacing P removed by the crop. The only change in Morgan's P was observed in the Ca-sludge treatments, but this was due to Morgan's reagent overestimating plant available P in high Ca conditions. From N trial plots a significantly higher grass yield and N uptake was observed for Fe and both Ca-type sludge applied plots than the control (zero N) plot during the 1st harvest, while no statistical difference observed in the subsequent harvests (up to 4th harvesting). The N fertiliser replacement value (derived from mineral N response) of sludge samples was observed to be in the order of Fe (54%)>Ca2 (25%)>Ca1 (22%)>Al (8%) with greater promise of N fertiliser efficiency of Fe and Ca types. Overall these bio-based sludges show promise in recycling P and N for grassland application but longer term trials in other soil types considering other environmental aspects (losses to soil, water and air) can further optimize the management of dairy sludge as an alternative to chemical fertiliser.
  • Plant traits of grass and legume species for flood resilience and N2O mitigation

    Oram, Natalie J.; Sun, Yan; Abalos, Diego; Groenigen, Jan Willem; Hartley, Sue; De Deyn, Gerlinde B.; European Union; Teagasc; 754380 (Wiley, 2021-07-11)
    1. Flooding threatens the functioning of managed grasslands by decreasing primary productivity and increasing nitrogen losses, notably as the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). Sowing species with traits that promote flood resilience and mitigate flood-induced N2O emissions within these grasslands could safeguard their productivity while mitigating nitrogen losses. We tested how plant traits and resource acquisition strategies could predict flood resilience and N2O emissions of 12 common grassland species (eight grasses and four legumes) grown in field soil in monocultures in a 14-week greenhouse experiment. We found that grasses were more resistant to flooding while legumes recovered better. Resource-conservative grass species had higher resistance while resource-acquisitive grasses species recovered better. Resilient grass and legume species lowered cumulative N2O emissions. Grasses with lower inherent leaf and root δ13C (and legumes with lower root δ13C) lowered cumulative N2O emissions during and after the flood. Our results highlight the differing responses of grasses with contrasting resource acquisition strategies, and of legumes to flooding. Combining grasses and legumes based on their traits and resource acquisition strategies could increase the flood resilience of managed grasslands, and their capability to mitigate flood-induced N2O emissions. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.
  • Pasture allowance, duration, and stage of lactation—Effects on early and total lactation animal performance

    Claffey, A.; Delaby, L.; Lewis, E.; Boland, T.M.; Kennedy, Emer; Dairy Levy (American Dairy Science Association, 2019-10)
    Pasture availability in early spring can be limited due to climatic effects on grass production, increasing the likelihood of feed deficits in early lactation of spring-calving pasture-based systems. We hypothesized that restricting pasture allowance (PA) when animals are at peak milk production will have more negative implications on milk production compared with restricting animals before this period. A total of 105 cows were assigned to 1 of 7 grazing treatments from March 14 to October 31, 2016 (33 wk). The control treatment was offered a PA to achieve a postgrazing sward height > 3.5 cm and mean pasture allowance of 15.5 kg of dry matter per cow. The remaining treatments were offered a PA representing 60% of that offered to the control for a duration of 2 or 6 wk from March 14 (mid-March; MMx2 and MMx6), March 28 (end of March; EMx2 and EMx6), or April 11 (mid-April; MAx2 and MAx6). Within grazing treatment, animals were also assigned to 1 of 2 calving dates (early and late) based on days in milk (DIM) on March 14. Early calved (EC) cows were ≥36 DIM, while late calved (LC) were ≤35 DIM. Restricting PA for 2 and 6 wk reduced daily milk yield (−1.6 and −2.2 kg/cow, respectively), cumulative milk protein yield (−4.0 and −6.3 kg/cow, respectively), and cumulative milk solids yield (−5.8 and −9.5 kg/cow, respectively) in the first 10 wk of the experiment. Daily milk yield was similar across the treatments at the end of the 33-wk period (16.8 kg/cow, average of all treatments), as was daily milk solids yield (1.40 kg/cow). Cows in the EC group produced less milk over the first 10 wk of the experiment (20.0 kg/cow per day) compared with the LC animals (22.1 kg/cow per day). However, body weight was greater (+15 kg/cow) in the EC animals compared with the LC, while body condition score was similar (2.85). This outcome indicates that animals that are restricted later in early lactation (circa onset of peak milk production) partition a greater proportion of available energy to maintenance, resulting in greater losses in milk production. These data indicate that despite the immediate reduction in milk production, restricting intake of grazing cows to 80% of that required to achieve spring grazing targets for postgrazing sward height for up to 6 wk may be used as a method of managing short-term pasture deficits on farm with minimal effects on total lactation performance.
  • Milk production per cow and per hectare of spring-calving dairy cows grazing swards differing in Lolium perenne L. ploidy and Trifolium repens L. composition

    McClearn, B.; Gilliland, T.J.; Delaby, L.; Guy, C.; Dineen, M.; Coughlan, F.; McCarthy, B.; Dairy Research Ireland; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (American Dairy Science Association, 2019-09)
    Grazed grass is the cheapest feed available for dairy cows in temperate regions; thus, to maximize profits, dairy farmers must optimize the use of this high-quality feed. Previous research has defined the benefits of including white clover (Trifolium repens L.) in grass swards for milk production, usually at reduced nitrogen usage and stocking rate. The aim of this study was to quantify the responses in milk production of dairy cows grazing tetraploid or diploid perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.; PRG) sown with and without white clover but without reducing stocking rate or nitrogen usage. We compared 4 grazing treatments in this study: tetraploid PRG-only swards, diploid PRG-only swards, tetraploid with white clover swards, and diploid with white clover swards. Thirty cows were assigned to each treatment, and swards were rotationally grazed at a farm-level stocking rate of 2.75 cows/ha and a nitrogen fertilizer rate of 250 kg/ha annually. Sward white clover content was 23.6 and 22.6% for tetraploid with white clover swards and diploid with white clover swards, respectively. Milk production did not differ between the 2 ploidies during this 4-yr study, but cows grazing the PRG-white clover treatments had significantly greater milk yields (+596 kg/cow per year) and milk solid yields (+48 kg/cow per year) compared with cows grazing the PRG-only treatments. The PRG-white clover swards also produced 1,205 kg of DM/ha per year more herbage, which was available for conserving and buffer feeding in spring when these swards were less productive than PRG-only swards. Although white clover is generally combined with reduced nitrogen fertilizer use, this study provides evidence that including white clover in either tetraploid or diploid PRG swards, combined with high levels of nitrogen fertilizer, can effectively increase milk production per cow and per hectare
  • Pasture Feeding Changes the Bovine Rumen and Milk Metabolome

    O’Callaghan, Tom; Vázquez-Fresno, Rosa; Serra-Cayuela, Arnau; Dong, Edison; Mandal, Rupasri; Hennessy, Deirdre; McAuliffe, Stephen; Dillon, Pat; Wishart, David; Stanton, Catherine; et al. (MDPI AG, 2018-04-06)
    The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of two pasture feeding systems—perennial ryegrass (GRS) and perennial ryegrass and white clover (CLV)—and an indoor total mixed ration (TMR) system on the (a) rumen microbiome; (b) rumen fluid and milk metabolome; and (c) to assess the potential to distinguish milk from different feeding systems by their respective metabolomes. Rumen fluid was collected from nine rumen cannulated cows under the different feeding systems in early, mid and late lactation, and raw milk samples were collected from ten non-cannulated cows in mid-lactation from each of the feeding systems. The microbiota present in rumen liquid and solid portions were analysed using 16S rRNA gene sequencing, while 1H-NMR untargeted metabolomic analysis was performed on rumen fluid and raw milk samples. The rumen microbiota composition was not found to be significantly altered by any feeding system in this study, likely as a result of a shortened adaptation period (two weeks’ exposure time). In contrast, feeding system had a significant effect on both the rumen and milk metabolome. Increased concentrations of volatile fatty acids including acetic acid, an important source of energy for the cow, were detected in the rumen of TMR and CLV-fed cows. Pasture feeding resulted in significantly higher concentrations of isoacids in the rumen. The ruminal fluids of both CLV and GRS-fed cows were found to have increased concentrations of p-cresol, a product of microbiome metabolism. CLV feeding resulted in increased rumen concentrations of formate, a substrate compound for methanogenesis. The TMR feeding resulted in significantly higher rumen choline content, which contributes to animal health and milk production, and succinate, a product of carbohydrate metabolism. Milk and rumen-fluids were shown to have varying levels of dimethyl sulfone in each feeding system, which was found to be an important compound for distinguishing between the diets. CLV feeding resulted in increased concentrations of milk urea. Milk from pasture-based feeding systems was shown to have significantly higher concentrations of hippuric acid, a potential biomarker of pasture-derived milk. This study has demonstrated that 1H-NMR metabolomics coupled with multivariate analysis is capable of distinguishing both rumen-fluid and milk derived from cows on different feeding systems, specifically between indoor TMR and pasture-based diets used in this study.
  • 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.
  • Evaluation of the n-alkane technique for estimating the individual intake of dairy cows consuming diets containing herbage and a partial mixed ration

    Wright, M.M.; Auldist, M.J.; Kennedy, Emer; Dunshea, F.R.; Galvin, N.; Hannah, M.C.; Wales, W.J.; DJPR; Victoria; Dairy Australia (Elsevier BV, 2020-07)
    Estimation of dry matter intake (DMI) using the n-alkane technique was evaluated in lactating dairy cows fed fresh herbage and a partial mixed ration (PMR). Four dietary treatments were investigated in a 2 × 2 factorial experiment using 16 Holstein-Friesian dairy cows. Dietary treatments were combinations of low and high amounts of fresh herbage (8 or 14 kg DM/cow per day) and PMR supplement (6 or 12 kg DM/cow per day). The pre-experimental period was 14 days followed by a 10-day experimental period. Cows were housed in individual metabolism stalls to allow for accurate measurement of DMI and total fecal output. Fecal n-alkane recovery rates were calculated to determine the most accurate corrections for incomplete fecal n-alkane recovery. The n-alkane technique accurately estimated DMI when corrected for incomplete fecal recovery using both published recovery rates and recovery rates calculated in this experiment. The most accurate application of recovery rates was with those calculated for each combination of dietary treatments, compared with using an average recovery rate. This research has important implications for the future use of the n-alkane technique, especially in PMR feeding systems. The discrepancy between estimated (when treatment recovery rates were applied) and measured herbage DMI increased with the amount of herbage offered but was not affected by amount of PMR. It was also found that the recovery rates of all natural n-alkanes increased as the amount of herbage increased. This research demonstrates that the n-alkane technique can be used to accurately estimate individual cow intake when fresh herbage and PMR are offered separately, evidenced by strong Lin’s concordance estimates.
  • Red clover: A promising pasture legume for Ireland

    Weldon, B. A.; O'Kiely, P. (2021-04-11)
    Red clover is considered a very productive but short lived perennial legume. Previous research has shown attractive yields for red clover in the first year after establishment (O’Kiely et al., 2006). This experiment quantified the impacts of cultivar, companion grass, harvest schedule and nitrogen fertiliser on crop yield in the sixth year after establishment, and compared these to grass receiving inorganic N fertiliser.
  • Grazing of Dairy Cows in Europe—An In-Depth Analysis Based on the Perception of Grassland Experts

    van den Pol-van Dasselaar, Agnes; Hennessy, Deirdre; Isselstein, Johannes (MDPI AG, 2020-02-04)
    Grazing is inherently close to the nature of herbivores, but no longer applied everywhere in Europe. Therefore, the perception of grassland experts on the occurrence, importance, constraints, solutions and future of grazing of dairy cows was studied. The study builds on results from the European Grassland Federation Working Group Grazing in the period 2010–2019. Both surveys and focus group meetings were used. There is a clear trend of reduced grazing in Europe. Since grazing is valued by different stakeholders and provides many ecosystem services, solutions to the constraints to grazing must be found. Constraints can be divided into region specific constraints, farm specific constraints and farmer specific constraints. The solutions include developing new knowledge, bringing the knowledge already available to practice and rewarding farmers for grazing as a service to society. If grazing is not supported, it will further decline. However, a joined endeavour has the potential to make a significant difference in transforming grass-based production systems and stimulating grazing.
  • PastureBase Ireland: A grassland decision support system and national database

    Hanrahan, Liam; Geoghegan, Anne; O'Donovan, Michael; Griffith, Vincent; Ruelle, Elodie; Wallace, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence (Elsevier BV, 2017-04-15)
    PastureBase Ireland (PBI) is a web-based grassland management application incorporating a dual function of grassland decision support and a centralized national database to collate commercial farm grassland data. This database facilitates the collection and storage of vast quantities of grassland data from grassland farmers. The database spans across ruminant grassland enterprises – dairy, beef and sheep. To help farmers determine appropriate actions around grassland management, we have developed this data informed decision support tool to function at the paddock level. Individual farmers enter data through the completion of regular pasture cover estimations across the farm, allowing the performance of individual paddocks to be evaluated within and across years. To evaluate the PBI system, we compared actual pasture cut experimental data (Etesia cuts) to PBI calculated outputs. We examined three comparisons, comparing PBI outputs to actual pasture cut data, for individual DM yields at defoliation (Comparison 1), for cumulative annual DM yields including silage data (Comparison 2) and, for cumulative annual DM yields excluding silage data (Comparison 3). We found an acceptable accuracy between PBI outputs and pasture cut data when statistically analyzed using relative prediction error and concordance correlation coefficients for the measurement of total annual DM yield (Comparison 2), with a relative prediction error of 15.4% and a concordance correlation coefficient of 0.85. We demonstrated an application of the PBI system through analysis of commercial farm data across two years (2014–2015) for 75 commercial farms who actively use the system. The analysis showed there was a significant increase in DM yield from 2014 to 2015. The results indicated a greater variation in pasture growth across paddocks within farms than across farms.
  • Effect of feed allowance at pasture on the lying behaviour of dairy cows

    O’Driscoll, Keelin; Lewis, Eva; Kennedy, Emer (Elsevier, 2019-02-10)
    In temperate climates where cows are primarily managed at pasture shortages of grass could result in nutritional deficits for the cow and may have a variety of behavioural consequences. Lying behaviour is one of the most researched aspects of dairy cow behaviour, and can provide insights into cow welfare and physiological state. This study investigated the effect of daily herbage allowance (DHA) on the lying behaviour of dairy cow during early lactation. Ninety-six cows were randomly assigned to one of eight treatments in a 2 × 4 factorial design; experimental duration (2 week (2 W) or 6 week (6 W)), and nutritional levels (DHA) (60%, 80%, 100% or 120% of intake capacity). Cows were assigned to treatment at 28 ± 8.4 days in milk, and lying behaviour of cows in the 6 W treatments recorded using modified voltage data loggers on 4 occasions; the week prior to the start of the experiment, during week 3 (MID), and week 6 (LATE), and 7 weeks after the study concluded (POST), when the cows were all returned to a feed allowance of 100% intake capacity. Although there was an effect of treatment on daily lying time (P < 0.01), with the 60% cows spending less time lying than the 120% (P < 0.01), cows in all treatments spent at least 9 h lying per day throughout the experiment. Daily lying time increased as the grazing season progressed (P < 0.001). Feed allowance affected both lying bout duration (P < 0.01) and number (P < 0.05), with cows on the highest feed allowance having the highest values for both. There was an effect of feed allowance on the time that cows first lay down after both morning and afternoon milking (P < 0.001), with a similar pattern for both times; the lower the feed allowance, the longer it took. During the POST period, this pattern was no longer evident in the afternoon, but still present in the morning. None of the treatments imposed resulted in daily lying times lower than those reported in other studies at pasture. However, the significant differences in patterns of lying during the day could be reflective of satiety level; the patterns of lying in cows with a low feed allowance compared to those with an allowance aligned with intake capacity are in agreement with previous research. Herd level recording of lying behaviour, relative to time since milking and/or fresh feed allocation, has potential for use as an animal welfare indicator for cows at pasture.
  • Infrared thermography as a tool to detect hoof lesions in sheep

    Byrne, Daire T; Berry, Donagh; Esmonde, Harold; McGovern, Fiona; Creighton, Philip; McHugh, Noirin; Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine; RSF 11/S/133 (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2018-12-08)
    Lameness has a major negative impact on sheep production. The objective of this study was to 1) quantify the repeatability of sheep hoof temperatures estimated using infrared thermography (IRT); 2) determine the relationship between ambient temperature, sheep hoof temperature, and sheep hoof health status; and 3) validate the use of IRT to detect infection in sheep hooves. Three experiments (a repeatability, exploratory, and validation experiment) were conducted over 10 distinct nonconsecutive days. In the repeatability experiment, 30 replicate thermal images were captured from each of the front and back hooves of nine ewes on a single day. In the exploratory experiment, hoof lesion scores, locomotion scores, and hoof thermal images were recorded every day from the same cohort of 18 healthy ewes in addition to a group of lame ewes, which ranged from one to nine ewes on each day. Hoof lesion and locomotion scores were blindly recorded by three independent operators. In the validation experiment, all of the same procedures from the exploratory experiment were applied to a new cohort of 40 ewes across 2 d. The maximum and average temperature of each hoof was extracted from the thermal images. Repeatability of IRT measurements was assessed by partitioning the variance because of ewe and error using mixed models. The relationship between ambient temperature, hoof temperature, and hoof health status was quantified using mixed models. The percentage of hooves correctly classified as healthy (i.e., specificity) and infected (i.e., sensitivity) was calculated for a range of temperature thresholds. Results showed that a small-to-moderate proportion of the IRT-estimated temperature variability in a given hoof was due to error (1.6% to 20.7%). A large temperature difference (8.5 °C) between healthy and infected hooves was also detected. The maximum temperature of infected hooves was unaffected by ambient temperature (P > 0.05), whereas the temperature of healthy hooves was associated with ambient temperature. The best sensitivity (92%) and specificity (91%) results in the exploratory experiment were observed when infected hooves were defined as having a maximum hoof temperature ≥9 °C above the average of the five coldest hooves in the flock on that day. When the same threshold was applied to the validation dataset, a sensitivity of 77% and specificity of 78% was achieved, indicating that IRT could have the potential to detect infection in sheep hooves.
  • Application of Meta-Analysis and Machine Learning Methods to the Prediction of Methane Production from In Vitro Mixed Ruminal Micro-Organism Fermentation

    Ellis, Jennifer L.; Alaiz-Moretón, Héctor; Navarro-Villa, Alberto; McGeough, Emma J.; Purcell, Peter; Powell, Christopher D.; O’Kiely, Padraig; France, James; López, Secundino; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; et al. (MDPI AG, 2020-04-21)
    In vitro gas production systems are utilized to screen feed ingredients for inclusion in ruminant diets. However, not all in vitro systems are set up to measure methane (CH4) production, nor do all publications report in vitro CH4. Therefore, the objective of this study was to develop models to predict in vitro CH4 production from total gas and volatile fatty acid (VFA) production data and to identify the major drivers of CH4 production in these systems. Meta-analysis and machine learning (ML) methodologies were applied to a database of 354 data points from 11 studies to predict CH4 production from total gas production, apparent DM digestibility (DMD), final pH, feed type (forage or concentrate), and acetate, propionate, butyrate and valerate production. Model evaluation was performed on an internal dataset of 107 data points. Meta-analysis results indicate that equations containing DMD, total VFA production, propionate, feed type and valerate resulted in best predictability of CH4 on the internal evaluation dataset. The ML models far exceeded the predictability achieved using meta-analysis, but further evaluation on an external database would be required to assess generalization ability on unrelated data. Between the ML methodologies assessed, artificial neural networks and support vector regression resulted in very similar predictability, but differed in fitting, as assessed by behaviour analysis. The models developed can be utilized to estimate CH4 emissions in vitro.
  • Effect of floor type on performance, lying time and dirt scores of finishing beef cattle: A meta-analysis

    Keane, Michael P.; McGee, Mark; O'Riordan, Edward G.; Kelly, Alan K.; Earley, Bernadette; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; WF2013073 (Elsevier BV, 2018-03-29)
    Data from individual studies evaluating the effect of housing systems on performance, lying time and dirt scores of finishing beef cattle are conflicting. The objective of this study was to collate the data from previous animal housing studies and quantify, through meta-analysis, the effect of floor type on animal performance, lying time and dirt scores. From 38 peer-reviewed articles, published between 1969 and 2017, 18 were determined to be eligible for meta-analysis. Papers were included in the study if they contained information on the effect of floor surface on animal performance (average daily liveweight gain (ADG), feed conversion ratio (FCR) and carcass weight), lying behaviour or animal cleanliness. There was no difference (P > 0.10) in ADG, FCR or carcass weight between concrete slatted floors (CSF) and CSF overlaid with rubber mats (RM). Using RM had no effect (P > 0.10) on lying duration or dirt scores of cattle. There was no difference (P > 0.10) in the ADG, FCR, carcass weight, lying duration or cleanliness of cattle housed on CSF or straw bedding. It was concluded that using RM or straw instead of CSF had no effect on performance, lying time or dirt scores.

View more