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

  • Genetic gain in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) varieties 1973 to 2013

    McDonagh, J.; O’Donovan, M.; McEvoy, M.; Gilliland, T. J. (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2016-08-10)
    Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) forms the basis of grassland production in temperate pastures and is globally one of the most important forage grasses. Consequently, there has been large plant breeding industry investment over the past 40 years in producing new varieties and independent testing systems designed to identify and list those with the most improved performances. This study was conducted at the Plant Testing Station, Crossnacreevy, Northern Ireland and compared the DM yield and sward density of new varieties submitted from 1973 to 2013 and grass digestibility from 1980 to 2013, under conservation and simulated grazing managements. A variety × years matrix was compiled for each parameter and comparable means between varieties never in side by side performance trials were produced. Dry matter yields showed an overall significant (p < 0.001) average annual increase of 0.52 % under conservation and 0.35 % under simulated grazing, with similar gain levels within maturity groups or ploidies. These rates were not constant over time, and periods of no gain occurred in various variety groupings. Sward density of the examined varieties did not change significantly. Herbage digestibility showed no improvement over the timeframe but had the largest differences between concurrent varieties, indicating that improvements were possible in the future. The study indicated that plant breeding gains were primarily DM yield focused with sward density remaining stagnant over the 40 years, while the lack of grass digestibility improvement appeared to only require more time to overcome. Evidence of benefits and risks of variety testing influences on plant breeding objectives was discussed.
  • Improved representation of cattle herd dynamics for bio-physical modelling of pathways to a climate neutral land sector

    Henn, Daniel; Humphreys, James; Duffy, Colm; Gibbons, James; Styles, David; Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (Elsevier BV, 2023-12)
    Livestock production contributes to food security and livelihood improvement globally but places a significant burden on the environment. In Ireland, an ongoing transition towards highly profitable dairy production after the phasing out of EU milk quotas has changed the composition of the national cattle herd with more dairy and fewer beef cows. This shift impacts greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting across different cattle cohorts, e.g. increasing the proportion of calves from the dairy herd. Dairy x beef crossbreeds (DxB) increasingly contribute to national beef output, leveraging larger average daily liveweight gain (ADG) traits from beef breeding bulls. OBJECTIVE Prospective modelling of climate and land consequences arising from alternative cattle production strategies requires more accurate simulation of cohort-specific ADG and associated feed requirements and GHG emissions. METHODS A new COHORTS model was developed to improve national climate scenario mitigation modelling. COHORTS is capable of simulating 21 genetics-gender-age cohorts calibrated to Irish performance, using just a few basic input parameters (at minimum dairy- and beef-cow numbers). A cohort specific ADG and average standing liveweight is estimated for each genetic (pure dairy calves, DxB and pure beef calves), gender and age combination, enabling more accurate calculation of energy requirements and enteric fermentation emissions based on IPCC Tier 2 calculations. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS National simulation of cattle numbers, enteric fermentation emissions and beef outputs were validated against relevant Irish inventories. For the period between 2006 and 2020, simulations resulted in total cattle numbers, emissions and beef production within 4%, 1.8% and 0.5%, respectively, of officially reported data. Our results indicate that climate projections based on average emission factors for pre-adult cattle cohorts may overestimate emissions in scenarios with projected growing dairy calf numbers and declining beef calf numbers. SIGNIFICANCE Validation using a 15-year data time series provides a high degree of confidence that COHORTS can be used to represent future herd dynamics in a wide range of scenarios, supporting robust policy regarding GHG mitigation, livestock production and land use – distinguishing between different levels of dairy or beef specialisation and across different levels of performance to predict forage (land) requirements and GHG emissions more accurately. COHORTS can be easily adapted for other countries, even when limited data are available.
  • A comparison of farm labour, profitability, and carbon footprint of different management strategies in Northern European grassland sheep systems

    Morgan-Davies, C.; Kyle, J.; Boman, I.A.; Wishart, H.; McLaren, A.; Fair, S.; Creighton, P.; European Research Area Network; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Teagasc; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-06)
    CONTEXT Sheep production systems need to become more carbon efficient to meet growing public demands on climate change. Some of the ways postulated to achieve this is to implement new technologies and management strategies such as precision livestock farming (PLF), increased use of high genetic merit animals with estimated breeding values through artificial insemination (AI) where practical, and the use of prolific breeds. However, the carbon footprint impact of these strategies has not to-date been quantified. Additionally, international experience indicates that uptake of such strategies is low due, in part, to the perception of increased workload especially during busy periods of the sheep year. OBJECTIVES This trans-European study investigates the impact of differing sheep management strategies on farm labour input, carbon footprint as well as the on-farm profitability, to address these concerns. METHODS Four management strategies were considered i) use of technology (PLF), ii) use of performance recording for higher genetic merit, iii) use of AI for higher genetic merit and iv) and use of prolific breeds, in 14 case study flocks located in areas typical of Northern European grassland sheep production systems across Scotland, France, Ireland and Norway. For each management strategy, paired case study flocks were identified. Labour was assessed at key handling events using video recording, farmers' diaries, and questionnaires, which were later quantified and classed into key tasks to create normalised labour profiles for each case study flock. The carbon footprint was quantified using a carbon calculator tool ( Financial net margins were calculated. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS Results highlighted that introducing PLF technology on extensive farms reduced labour by 20% and increased economic margins by £9/ewe but with a concurrent increase in carbon emissions (kg CO2e/ kg of meat produced). Using performance recording on sheep farms for achieving higher genetic merit increased economic margins by £6/ewe, and reduced carbon emissions (kg CO2e) per kg of meat produced but resulted in 10% extra labour. AI on farms increased economic margins by £50/ewe, did not incur extra labour and increased carbon efficiency in terms of kg CO2e/kg meat produced. Finally, high prolific breeds did not significantly increase labour input at key handling events and resulted by higher economic margins (+£3/ewe), without a change in terms of kg CO2e/kg meat produced. SIGNIFICANCE These novel case studies clearly illustrate it is possible to increase carbon and labour efficiency by adopting technology, changing breeding management or ewe breed on sheep farms.
  • Effects of grass and maize silage feed value, offering soybean meal with maize silage, and concentrate feed level in late pregnancy, on ewe and lamb performance

    Keady, T.W.J.; Hanrahan, J.P.; Teagasc; RMIS 5657 (Elsevier, 2021-01)
    In many countries, daily herbage accumulation on pasture declines towards zero during the winter period; thus, many pregnant ewes are housed and offered conserved forages supplemented with concentrate prior to parturition. The effects of forage type and feed value (FV), offering soybean meal with maize silage during mid and late pregnancy, and concentrate feed level in late pregnancy on the performance of ewes and their progeny (to slaughter) were evaluated. Ewes (n = 151) were assigned to one of nine treatments from mid-pregnancy until lambing. Medium FV and high FV grass silages (metabolisable energy concentrations of 10.7 and 12.0 MJ/kg DM) were offered ad libitum supplemented with either 15 or 25 kg concentrate/ewe during late pregnancy. Low and high DM maize silages (starch concentrations of 80 and 315 g/kg DM) were offered ad libitum either alone or with soybean meal (200 g/d) and supplemented with 15 kg concentrate during late pregnancy. A final treatment consisted of high FV grass silage supplemented with 5 kg soybean/ewe over the final 4 weeks of pregnancy. Ewes and lambs were put to pasture in a rotational-grazing system within 3 days of lambing. There were no interactions (P > 0.05) between grass silage FV and concentrate feed level for ewe or lamb traits. Increasing grass silage FV increased food intake (P < 0.001) during late pregnancy, ewe BW and body condition score (BCS) at lambing (P < 0.001), lamb BW at birth (P < 0.001) and weaning (P < 0.05), and reduced age at slaughter (P = 0.06). Increasing concentrate feed level increased metabolisable energy (P < 0.05) intake during late pregnancy but had no effect (P > 0.05) on ewe or lamb performance. Increasing maize DM at harvest and offering soybean meal with maize silage increased food intake (P < 0.001) and ewe BW and BCS at lambing (P < 0.05 or P < 0.01). Offering soybean meal with maize silage increased lamb BW at birth (P < 0.01) and reduced age at slaughter (P < 0.05). Reducing supplementation of high FV grass silage to 5 kg of soybean meal had no effect (P > 0.05) on animal performance. Replacing grass silage with maize silage did not affect (P > 0.05) BW gain of lambs. It is concluded that increasing the FV of the grass silage offered during pregnancy had the greatest positive impact on ewe and lamb performance.
  • Effects of joining at 7 months, and ewe genotype, on the performance of ewes to 19 months of age and that of their progeny to slaughter

    Keady, T.W.J.; Hanrahan, J.P.; Teagasc; RMIS 6256 (Elsevier, 2021-06)
    Two ways of reducing the cost of replacements are increasing litter size and number of litters produced; thus, the total weight of lamb carcass output per ewe lifetime. The effects of ewe genotype on the performance of ewes lambing at 1 year and of their progeny to slaughter, and the effect of age at first joining (7 or 19 months) on BW at ~19 months and survival to joining at 19 months were evaluated over two consecutive years, using 460 ewe lambs from three genotypes: Belclare (Bel), Suffolk × Belclare (Suf × Bel) and ≥ 75% Suffolk ancestry (Suf75). Lambs from the three genotypes were at a similar proportion of mature BW and half of the lambs, within genotype, were allocated to be joined for the first time at 7 or 19 months. The ewe lambs were managed in a grass-based rotational-grazing system, except when housed from December to March on a grass silage-based diet. Belclare ewes had larger litters (P < 0.001), reared more lambs per ewe joined (P < 0.01), were lighter at lambing and at 19 months (P < 0.01), were of smaller body size at 19 months (P < 0.001) and their progeny were lighter at weaning (P < 0.05) relative to Suf75 genotype; the Suf × Bel ewes were intermediate for most traits but had a significantly lower litter size (P < 0.05) than Bel ewes. Progeny from Suf × Bel ewes were 17 days younger at slaughter (P < 0.01) relative to those from Bel ewes. Ewe genotype had no effect (P > 0.05) on lamb mortality (born dead, total mortality to weaning), lambing assistance, number of ewes that failed to lamb, or on ewe survival to 19 months of age. Increasing ewe BW at joining increased the probability (P < 0.001) of rearing at least one lamb and this effect was consistent across genotypes. There were significant relationships (P < 0.001) between ewe BW at lambing and lamb BW at birth and at weaning of 0.053 (SE 0.0089) kg and 0.29 (SE 0.049) kg, respectively. Ewes that lambed at 1 year were 2 kg lighter (P < 0.001) at 19 months of age and had a smaller body size (P < 0.01) relative to those not joined. It is concluded that ewe genotype had a significant effect on number of lambs reared, and thus lamb carcass output. Whilst lambing at 1 year reduced BW by 2 kg when joined at 19 months, it did not affect ewe survival to that stage.
  • Comparison of sheep and dairy cows for in vivo digestibility of perennial ryegrass

    Garry, B.; McGovern, Fiona; Kennedy, Emer; Baumont, R.; Boland, T.M.; Wright, M.M.; O'Donovan, M.; Lewis, E.; Dairy Research Ireland; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship (Elsevier, 2021-06-30)
    Sheep are often used as a proxy for dairy cows when measuring the digestibility of a feed. In recent years grassland management guidelines for ruminant animals have been re-evaluated in accordance with the progression in animal genetics and the acknowledgement that genetic potential has an influence on both feed intake and digestibility. Recommended pre-grazing herbage mass (HM) targets are now much lower with improved perennial ryegrass varieties available for grazing swards. The objective of this study was to compare the in vivo digestibility of perennial ryegrass in wether sheep and lactating dairy cows. The experimental design was selected to measure the effect of animal species (cows, sheep), sward HM measured cutting herbage at 4 cm above ground level (low: 1 700 kg DM/ha and high: 4 000 kg DM/ha) and season (Spring: Apr–May, Summer: Jul–Aug) on the digestibility of perennial ryegrass. Each HM treatment was offered to each animal within species and season for 12 d using a 2 HM × 2 period changeover Latin square design. There were eight cows and eight sheep, so there were four 2 × 2 Latin squares for each animal species (two) at each season (two), giving 64 observations. During each 12 d experimental period, the first 6 d were used for adaptation (adaptation phase) and the final 6 d were used for measurement (measurement phase). In vivo organic matter digestibility (OMD) in spring did not differ between animal species but in summer sheep had higher in vivo OMD than cows. The results described herein highlight the suitability of wether sheep as an alternative to dairy cows for determining the digestibility of perennial ryegrass in spring but not in summer. Stage of growth of the plant, which is intrinsically linked to season, should be considered as results show that digestibility in the ruminant was affected by season but not differentially affected by changing sward HM.
  • Restricting dairy cow access time to pasture in autumn: The effects on milk production, grazing behaviour and DM intake of late lactation dairy cows

    Garry, B.; Ganche, E.; Hennessy, Deirdre; O'Donovan, M.; Murphy, J.P.; Kennedy, Emer; Irish Dairy Levy; Teagasc Core Funding (Elsevier, 2021-09-30)
    Extending the grazing season in pasture based systems of dairy production can increase farm profitability; poor weather and soil conditions can reduce the number of grazing days. The study objectives were to (i) examine the effect of restricted access to pasture in the autumn on the milk production, grazing behaviour and DM intake (DMI) of late lactation spring-calving dairy cows and (ii) establish the effect of alternating restricted and continuous access to pasture on dairy cow production, DMI and grazing behaviour. Cows were randomly assigned to one of four grazing treatments: (i) 22 h (full-time) access to pasture (22H; control); (ii) Two 5-h periods of access to pasture (2×5H); (iii) Two 3-h periods of access to pasture (2×3H); and (iv) alternating between full-time and 3-h access to pasture with no more than three continuous days on any one regime, e.g. Monday – full-time access, Tuesday − 2x3H access, Wednesday − 2x3H access; Thursday – full-time access, etc. (2×3HV). Restricted access to pasture was offered after a.m. and p.m. milking. Swards of similar quality and pregrazing herbage mass were offered. Treatment had no effect on milk yield (13.2 kg/day), milk fat (48.2 g/kg), protein (39.0 g/kg) or lactose content (42.6 g/kg) and milk solid yield (1.15 kg/day). Similarly, there was no effect of treatment on final BW (483 kg) or final BCS (2.66). There was no significant difference in DMI (15.1 kg DM/cow/day) between treatments. There was an effect on daily grazing time, 22H cows (565 min/cow/day) grazed for longest time, however, when the 2x3HV treatment had full-time access to pasture, they had a similar grazing time (543 min/cow/day) to the 22H cows and were similar to the 2x3H treatment on days with restricted access to pasture (357 min/cow/day). The 22H and 2x5H animals had similar grass DMI/min (29.2 g/min), the 2x3HV were higher (33.9 g/min) but were similar to the comparable treatment when offered 2x3H access time (41.6 g/min) and when offered 22H access time (27.7 g/min). The results from this study show how when offered a grass only diet of autumn pasture grazing behaviour can be modified by restricting pasture access time without reducing dairy cow production in late lactation at low production levels. There was also no effect of alternating access time between 22H and 2x3H on milk production and DMI in the 2x3HV treatment. Restricted access time to pasture in autumn may be a strategy which farmers can use to extend the grazing season.
  • Analysis of milk solids production and mid-lactation bodyweight to evaluate cow production efficiency on commercial dairy farms

    Evers, S.H.; McParland, S.; Delaby, L.; Pierce, K.M.; Horan, B.; Irish Dairy Levy; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Science Foundation Ireland; 18/SIRG/5562 (Elsevier, 2021-10-31)
    The efficient production of milk is an important determinant of both, farm productivity and the environmental impact of intensive dairy systems. The objective of the present study was to use a large dataset of commercial dairy cows to determine the relationship among animal breed, Irish total merit index (Economic Breeding Index; EBI), parity, and production efficiency parameters, which included milk solids (MS) production per kg of mid-lactation bodyweight (MSperBW) and the estimated net energy requirement per kg of MS produced (ENperMS). Data from 80 different spring-calving commercial dairy herds located in southern Ireland comprising 20,051 cows across 34,002 lactations from Holstein-Friesian (HF) and Jersey × Holstein-Friesian crossbred (JFX) cows were accessible for the study across 4 years. The data available included individual cow EBI, 305-day MS production, which is kg fat yield plus kg protein yield, calving and dry-off dates, and a mid-lactation bodyweight (BW) at 143 ± 26 days in milk. To evaluate the productive efficiency in this study, firstly, individual cow MSperBW was calculated by dividing 305-day MS production by mid-lactation BW, with higher values being desirable (Prendiville et al., 2009; O'Sullivan et al., 2019a). Secondly, ENperMS was established by dividing the total net energy requirement (in Unité Fourragère Lait; UFL) for an animal for maintenance (from BW), milk production, and growth (for animals up to lactation 3) by the 305-day MS production (INRA, 2010; Faverdin et al., 2011), where lower values indicate increased efficiency due to lower energy requirement per unit output. Statistical analyses were undertaken using mixed models. Overall, average MSperBW was 0.94 ±0.16 kg MS/ kg BW with large variation between animals within herds (0.42 to 1.47 kg MS/ kg BW) and between herds (0.73 to 1.14 kg MS/ kg BW). Similarly, ENperMS on farm averaged 9.8 total UFL/ kg MS ranging from 9.0 to 10.9 total UFL/ kg MS between farms. The MSperBW was significantly greater for JFX (1.01 kg MS/ kg BW) compared to HF animals (0.92 kg MS/ kg BW), resulting in a reduction in total energy requirements per kg of MS produced (ENperMS) (9.5 vs. 9.8 total UFL/ kg MS for JFX and HF, respectively). Animals with increased MSperBW produced 140 kg/cow more MS per 305-day lactation and were 58 kg lighter than lower MSperBW contemporaries. These results corroborate the benefits of both, selection on EBI and crossbreeding to increase aforementioned production efficiency parameters within intensive grazing systems. The results also provide a further compelling basis for dairy farmers to routinely weigh and milk record their herds to identify more efficient animals on which to increase animal performance and profitability in future generations.
  • Effect of 3 autumn pasture management strategies applied to 2 farm system intensities on the productivity of spring-calving, pasture-based dairy systems

    Evers, S.H.; Delaby, L.; Fleming, C.; Pierce, K.M.; Horan, B.; Dairy Research Levy; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship (Elsevier, 2021-06-30)
    The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of altering autumn pasture availability and farm system intensity on the productivity of spring-calving dairy cows during autumn. A total of 144 Holstein-Friesian and Holstein-Friesian × Jersey crossbred dairy cows were randomly assigned to 2 whole farm system (FS) intensities and 3 autumn pasture availability (PA; measured above 3.5 cm) treatments in a 2 × 3 factorial arrangement. The 2 farm systems consisted of a medium intensity (MI: 2.75 cows/ha, target postgrazing sward height of 4.0–4.5 cm) and high intensity system (HI: 3.25 cows/ha, target postgrazing sward height of 3.5–4.0 cm, + 1.8 kg of concentrate dry matter [(DM)/cow per day]. Within each farm system treatment, cows were further subdivided into 3 different PA management strategies: high PA (HPA), medium PA (MPA), and low PA (LPA). The experimental period lasted for 11 wk from September 1 to housing of all animals on November 20 (±2 d) over 3 yr (2017–2019, inclusive). To establish the different average pasture covers for each PA treatment during autumn and in particular at the end of the grazing season, grazing rotation length was extended by +13 and +7 d for HPA and MPA, respectively, beyond that required by LPA (37 d). There were no significant FS × PA interactions for any of the pasture, dry matter intake, or milk production and composition variables analyzed. There were also no differences in pregrazing sward characteristics or sward nutritive value between FS with the exception of daily herbage allowance, which was reduced for HI system (12.2 vs. 14.2 kg of DM/cow). Milk and milk solid yield were greater for HI groups (15.9 and 1.55 kg/cow per day, respectively) compared with MI (15.4 and 1.50 kg/cow per day, respectively). Mean paddock pregrazing herbage mass was significantly higher with increased PA ranging from a mean of 1,297 kg of DM/ha for LPA to 1,718 and 2,111 kg of DM/ha of available pasture for MPA and HPA, respectively. Despite large differences in pregrazing herbage mass, there was no difference in cumulative pasture production and only modest differences in grazing efficiency and sward nutritive value between PA treatments. On average, closing pasture covers were 420, 650, and 870 kg of DM/ha for LPA, MPA, and HPA, respectively, on December 1. In addition to maintaining similar grazing season lengths and achieving big differences in availability of pasture on farm into late autumn, PA treatment had no significant effect on dry matter intake, milk production, and body condition score during the study period. The results of this study indicate that greater cow performance and pasture utilization can be achieved through a greater daily concentrate allocation along with an increased stocking rate. Moreover, the potential to adapt grazing management practices to increase the average autumn pasture cover in intensive grazing systems is highlighted. In addition, a high dependence on high-quality grazed pasture during late autumn can be ensured without compromising grazing season length while also allowing additional pasture to be available for the subsequent spring.
  • The development of equations to predict live-weight from linear body measurements of pasture-based Holstein-Friesian and Jersey dairy heifers

    Costigan, H.; Delaby, L.; Walsh, S.; Lahart, B.; Kennedy, E.; Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine; MultiRepro project (15/S/696) (Elsevier, 2021-11-30)
    Monitoring the live-weight of dairy heifers and thus meeting weight-for-age targets is regarded as one of the most important aspects of a heifer rearing enterprise as it optimizes future production. This is particularly important in pasture-based heifer rearing systems where growth is non-linear due to seasonal variation in grass growth and quality. Data were collected throughout the rearing period to estimate the live-weight of pasture-based Holstein-Friesian (n = 130) and Jersey (n = 57) dairy heifers using linear body measurements. Live-weight was regressed on heart girth, body volume and a polynomial of body length, heart girth, and withers height; all equations were validated within-herd. All three equations were accurate predictors of live-weight for pasture-based dairy heifers (R² > 0.92 and RMSE < 19.1 kg), therefore, in the absence of weighing scales, live-weight can be successfully predicted using linear body measurements. The equation which utilizes body volume of the heifer is proposed as the most suitable predictor of live-weight.
  • Pre-weaning management of calves on commercial dairy farms and its influence on calf welfare and mortality

    Barry, J.; Bokkers, E.A.M.; de Boer, I.J.M.; Kennedy, E.; Walsh Fellowship funding (Elsevier, 2020-12-31)
    Welfare and management of calves is of increasing interest and also influences performance of these animals in later life. The aim of this study was to assess management and environmental conditions under which pre-weaned dairy calves are reared on commercial Irish dairy farms. We included 47 spring-calving, pasture-based herds in this study. Herd and animal-specific data, such as mortality rate, age and breed, were gathered from all participants via the HerdPlus® database. Information pertaining to management practices was collected by conducting an interview with the principal calf rearer, while an assessment of calf housing facilities was conducted to identify conditions calves were reared in. The environmental assessment included measurements of space allowance per calf, as well as feeding equipment hygiene. To assess calf behaviour video observations were used, while accounting for the number of calves present in a group and the space available per calf. Faecal samples were also collected to determine the presence of enteric pathogens among calves. To compare calf space allowance, group size and presence of enteric pathogens early and late in the calving season each farm was visited twice. Calf mortality was not associated with either herd size, space allowance per calf or post-colostrum feeding practices. Higher calf mortality was identified among herds which reported experiencing an on-set of calf pneumonia during weeks 8 to 10 of the calving season. This study demonstrates that factors associated with calf welfare on commercial Irish dairy farms (e.g. space allowance, mortality rate) are independent of herd size. Some management practices however, such as methods used for treating health issues can affect rates of calf mortality experienced. Calf mortality, for example, was lower in herds which treated diarrhoea cases by administering electrolytes, while continuing to offer milk. Behavioural observations indicate that smaller group sizes could promote expression of positive behaviours, potentially resulting from an overall improvement in welfare. Space allowance per calf was not associated with observed behaviour frequencies. We also identified that similar rates of calf mortality are experienced across herds of different sizes.
  • An examination of two concentrate allocation strategies which are based on the early lactation milk yield of autumn calving Holstein Friesian cows

    Lawrence, D.; O’Donovan, M.; Boland, T.M.; Lewis, E.; Kennedy, E. (Elsevier, 2016-12-31)
    The objective of this experiment was to compare the effects of two concentrate feeding strategies offered with a grass silage and maize silage diet on the dry matter (DM) intake, milk production (MP) and estimated energy balance of autumn calved dairy cows. Over a 2-year period, 180 autumn calving Holstein Friesian cows were examined. Within year, cows were blocked into three MP sub-groups (n=9) (high (HMP), medium (MMP) and low (LMP)) based on the average MP data from weeks 3 and 4 of lactation. Within a block cows were randomly assigned to one of two treatments (n=54), flat rate (FR) concentrate feeding or feed to yield (FY) based on MP sub-group. Cows on the FR treatment were offered a fixed rate of concentrate (5.5 kg DM/cow per day) irrespective of MP sub-group. In the FY treatment HMP, MMP and LMP cows were allocated 7.3, 5.5 and 3.7 kg DM of concentrate, respectively. The mean concentrate offered to the FR and FY treatments was the same. On the FR treatment there was no significant difference in total dry matter intake (TDMI, 17.3 kg) between MP sub-groups. In the FY treatment, however, the TDMI of HMP-FY was 2.2 kg greater than MMP-FY, and 4.5 kg greater than LMP-FY (15.2 kg DM). The milk yield of LMP-FR was 3.5 kg less than the mean of the HMP-FR and MMP-FR treatments (24.5 kg). The milk yield of the HMP-FY treatment was 3.6 and 7.9 kg greater than the MMP-FY and LMP-FY treatments, respectively. The difference in MP between the HMP sub-groups was 2.6 kg, which translates to a response of 1.4 kg of milk per additional 1 kg of concentrate offered. There was no significant difference in MP between the two LMP sub-groups; however, MP increased 0.8 kg per additional 1 kg of concentrate offered between cows on the LMP-FR and LMP-FY treatments. The estimated energy balance was positive for cows on the LMP-FR treatment, but negative for cows on the other treatments. The experiment highlights the variation within a herd in MP response to concentrate, as cows with a lower MP potential are less responsive to additional energy input than cows with a greater MP potential. Cows with a greater MP capacity did not substitute additional concentrate for the basal forage, which indicates an additional demand for energy based on ability of individual cows to produce milk.
  • Rumen metabolism, omasal flow of nutrients, and microbial dynamics in lactating dairy cows fed fresh perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) not supplemented or supplemented with rolled barley grain

    Dineen, M.; McCarthy, B.; Dillon, p.; LaPierre, P.A.; Fessenden, S.; Matthews, C.; Galvin, N.; Van Amburgh, M.E.; Dairy Research Ireland Dairy Levy Trust (Elsevier, 2020-12)
    The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of rolled barley grain (RB) supplementation on rumen metabolism, omasal flow of nutrients, and microbial dynamics in lactating dairy cows fed fresh perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.; PRG)-based diets. Ten ruminally cannulated Holstein cows averaging (mean ± standard deviation) 49 ± 23 d in milk and 513 ± 36 kg of body weight were assigned to 1 of 2 treatments in a switchback design. The treatment diets were PRG only (G) or PRG plus 3.5 kg of dry matter RB (G+RB). The study consisted of three 29-d periods where each period consisted of 21 d of diet adaptation and 8 d of data and sample collection. A double marker system was used to quantify nutrient flow entering the omasal canal along with labeled 15N-ammonium sulfate to measure bacterial, protozoal, and nonmicrobial N flow. Rumen evacuation techniques were used to determine nutrient and microbial pool size, allowing the calculation of fractional rates of digestion and microbial growth. There was no difference in daily milk yield or energy-corrected milk yield between treatments. Milk fat concentration and milk urea N decreased, whereas milk protein concentration increased in cows fed the G+RB diet. During the omasal sampling phase, dry matter intake was higher in cows fed the G+RB diet. Ruminal and total-tract neutral detergent fiber digestibility was lower in G+RB cows; however, no difference was observed in reticulorumen pH. The rumen pool size of fermentable carbohydrate was increased in cows fed the G+RB diet; however, the fractional rate of digestion was decreased. Flow of nonammonia N and bacterial N at the omasal canal increased in cows fed the G+RB diet compared with the G diet. Protozoa N flow was not different between diets; however, protozoa appeared to supply a much larger amount of microbial N and exhibited shorter generation time than previously considered. Feed N ruminal digestibility, corrected for microbial contribution, was similar for both treatments (88.4 and 89.0% for G and G+RB, respectively). In conclusion, RB supplementation did not benefit overall animal performance; however, it reduced ruminal neutral detergent fiber digestibility and increased bacterial N flow. The results demonstrate the large dependence of cows consuming PRG-based diets on microbial N as the main source of nonammonia N supply. Additional quantitative research is required to further describe the supply of nutrients and microbial dynamics in cows consuming PRG-based diets in an effort to determine most limiting nutrients.
  • Micro-sonic sensor technology enables enhanced grass height measurement by a Rising Plate Meter

    McSweeney, D.; Coughlan, N.E.; Cuthbert, R.N.; Halton, P.; Ivanov, S. (Elsevier, 2019-06-30)
    Globally, the Rising Plate Meter (RPM) is a device used to measure compressed sward height, to enable estimation of herbage mass. Despite improved farm management practices aided by a variety of technological advances, the standard design of a RPM has remained relatively unchanged. Recently, however, a RPM utilising a micro-sonic sensor, with digital data capture capability via a Bluetooth communications link to a smart device application, has been developed. Here, we assess the comparable ability of both a standard cumulative ratchet counter RPM and the micro-sonic sensor RPM, to accurately and precisely measure fixed heights. Moreover, as correct allocation of grazing area requires accurate geolocation positioning, we assess the associated GPS technology. The micro-sonic sensor RPM was significantly more accurate for height capture than the cumulative ratchet counter RPM. Overall, across all heights, the cumulative ratchet counter RPM underestimated height by 7.68 ± 0.06 mm (mean ± SE). Alternatively, the micro-sonic sensor RPM overestimated height by 0.18 ± 0.08 mm. In relation to a practical applications, these discrepancies can result in an under- and overestimation of dry matter yield by 13.71% and 0.32% kilograms per hectare, respectively. The performance of the on-board GPS did not significantly differ from that of a tertiary device. Overall, the wireless technology, integrated mapping, and decision support tools offered by the innovative micro-sonic sensor RPM provides for a highly efficacious grassland management tool.
  • The multi-year cumulative effects of alternative stocking rate and grazing management practices on pasture productivity and utilization efficiency

    McCarthy, B.; Delaby, L.; Pierce, K.M.; McCarthy, J.; Fleming, C.; Brennan, A.; Horan, B.; Irish Farmers Dairy Levy; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2016-05)
    The production and utilization of increased quantities of high quality pasture is of paramount importance in pasture-based milk production systems. The objective of this study was to evaluate the cumulative effects of alternative integrated grazing strategies, incorporating alternative stocking rate (SR) and grazing severities, on pasture productivity and grazing efficiency over multiple years within farm systems using perennial ryegrass dominant pastures. Three whole-farm SR treatments were compared over 4 complete grazing seasons (2009 to 2012 inclusive): low (2.51 cows/ha; LSR), medium (2.92 cows/ha; MSR), and high (3.28 cows/ha; HSR). Each system had its own farmlet containing 18 paddocks and remained on the same treatment for the duration of the study. Stocking rate had a significant effect on all grazing variables with the exception of soil fertility status and sward density. Increased SR resulted in increased total annual net pasture accumulation, improved sward nutritive value, and increased grazed pasture utilization. Total annual net pasture accumulation was greatest in HSR [15,410 kg of dry matter (DM)/ha], intermediate for MSR (14,992 kg of DM/ha), and least for LSR (14,479 kg of DM/ha) during the 4-yr study period. A linear effect of SR on net pasture accumulation was detected with an increase in net pasture accumulation of 1,164.4 (SE = 432.7) kg of DM/ha for each 1 cow/ha increase in SR. Pregrazing pasture mass and height and postgrazing residual pasture mass and height were greatest for LSR, intermediate for the MSR, and lowest for the HSR. In comparison with the LSR, the imposition of a consistently increased grazing severity coupled with increased whole farm SR in MSR and HSR treatments arrested the decline in sward nutritive value, typically observed during mid-season. Incorporating the individual beneficial effects of SR on pasture accumulation, nutritive value, and utilization efficiency, total proportional energy (unité fourragère lait) utilization per hectare increased significantly with increasing SR (+0.026 and +0.081 for MSR and HSR, respectively). These results quantify the significant effect of grazing management practices on the feed production capability of modern perennial ryegrass pastures for intensive grazing dairy production systems. Furthermore, these results highlight the importance of consistently imposing grazing treatments over multiple years, and within integrated whole farm systems, to accurately assess the longer term effects of alternate grazing management practices on pasture productivity.
  • Variation in feeding behavior and milk production among dairy cows when supplemented with 2 amounts of mixed ration in combination with 2 amounts of pasture

    Wright, M.M.; Auldist, M.J.; Kennedy, E.; Dunshea, F.R.; Hannah, M.; Wales, W.J.; Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources–Victoria, and Dairy Australia (Melbourne, Australia) (Elsevier, 2016-08-31)
    Variation in feeding behavior and milk production of grazing dairy cows fed a mixed ration was measured. Experiments were conducted in spring (early lactation) and autumn (late lactation) with 48 Holstein-Friesian dairy cows. Pasture allowance (low vs. high) and amounts of supplement (low vs. high) were applied to determine the effect on variation among cows in feeding behavior and milk production. The experiments investigated 4 dietary treatments in a 2×2 factorial arrangement of treatments. Daily pasture allowances were 15kg of DM/cow per day (low) and 37kg of DM/cow per day (high; to ground level); and 12kg of DM/cow per day (low) and 31kg of DM/cow per day (high; to ground level), for the spring and autumn experiments, respectively. Supplements were offered at 6kg of DM/cow per day (low) and 14kg of DM/cow per day (high); and 6kg of DM/cow per day (low) and 12kg of DM/cow per day (high), for the spring and autumn experiments, respectively. There were 2groups of 6 cows per treatment. All treatments received a partial mixed ration, defined as a total mixed ration fed between periods of grazing that contained wheat grain, corn grain, alfalfa hay, and canola meal. The grain-to-forage ratio of the supplements was 78:22 (DM basis) in both spring and autumn. In both experiments, the pre-experimental period was 14d followed by a 10-d experimental period. The variation among cows within a group in feeding behavior was influenced by the amount of supplement but not the amount of pasture offered. The variation among cows in pasture eating time approximately doubled when the amount of supplement offered increased, indicating that to reduce the variability among cows, supplement feeding management strategies need to be considered. Increasing pasture allowance had no effect on pasture eating time although pasture intake increased as a result of increased grazing intensity compared with the low pasture allowance. However, increasing the amount of supplement in the partial mixed ration feeding system reduced pasture eating time by 51min/cow per day.
  • Increased stocking rate and associated strategic dry-off decision rules reduced the amount of nitrate-N leached under grazing

    Roche, J.R.; Ledgard, S.F.; Sprosen, M.S.; Lindsey, S.B.; Penno, J.W.; Horan, B.; Macdonald, K.A.; DairyNZ Inc. (Hamilton, NZ); the Fertilizer Association of New Zealand (Wellington) (Elsevier, 2016-07-31)
    The effect of intensive agricultural systems on the environment is of increasing global concern, and recent review articles have highlighted the need for sustainable intensification of food production. In grazing dairy systems, the leaching of nitrate-N (NO3-N) to groundwater is a primary environmental concern. A herd-level factor considered by many to be a key contributor to the amount of NO3-N leached from dairy pastures is stocking rate (SR), and some countries have imposed limits to reduce the risk of NO3-N loss to groundwater. The objective of the current experiment was to determine the effect of dairy cow SR on NO3-N leached in a grazing system that did not import feed from off-farm and had the same N fertilizer input. Five SR were evaluated (2.2, 2.7, 3.1, 3.7, and 4.3 cows/ha) in a completely randomized design (i.e., 2 replicates of each SR as independent farmlets) over 2 y. Pasture utilization, milk production/hectare, and days in milk/hectare increased with SR, but days in milk/cow and milk production/cow declined. The concentration of NO3-N in drainage water and the quantity of NO3-N leached/ha per year declined linearly with increasing SR, and the operating profit/kg NO3-N leached per ha increased. Higher SR was associated with fewer days in milk/cow, resulting in a reduction in estimated urine N excretion/cow (the main source of N leaching) during the climatically sensitive period for NO3-N leaching (i.e., late summer to winter). We hypothesized that the reduction in estimated urine N excretion per cow led to an increase in urinary N spread and reduced losses from urine patches. The results presented indicate that lowering SR may not reduce nitrate leaching and highlight the need for a full farm system-level analysis of any management change to determine its effect on productivity and environmental outcomes.
  • Short communication: The effect of storage conditions over time on bovine colostral immunoglobulin G concentration, bacteria, and pH

    Cummins, C.; Lorenz, I; Kennedy, E; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Scheme; Teagasc (Elsevier, 2016-06-30)
    The objective of the present study was to measure the effect of storing colostrum in different conditions for varying amounts of time on IgG concentration, bacteria, and pH. In experiment 1, colostrum from 12 Holstein-Friesian cows (6 primiparous and 6 multiparous) was collected within 3h of calving, and colostrum from another 12 multiparous cows was collected within 3h of calving (6 cows) and >9h postpartum (6 cows). Aliquots were refrigerated or stored at room temperature for up to 72h, depending on treatment. In experiment 2, colostrum was collected from 6 multiparous cows within 9h of calving, and aliquots were stored for up to 72h in temperature-controlled units set at 4, 13, and 20°C. All colostrum samples were analyzed for IgG concentration, total bacteria count, and pH after 0, 6, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, and 72h of storage. Storage conditions did not affect the IgG concentration of colostrum. Bacterial growth was most rapid in the first 6h of storage, reducing thereafter, but bacteria multiplied at a significantly greater rate when stored in warmer conditions (i.e., >4°C). The pH of colostrum was not significantly altered when stored at temperatures <13°C, but when stored at 20°C the pH significantly decreased after 24h of storage. Storing colostrum in warmer conditions significantly alters both total bacteria count and pH; consequently, colostrum should be stored at ≤4°C.
  • Effect of stocking rate on milk and pasture productivity and supplementary feed use for spring calving pasture fed dairy systems

    Patton, D.; Pierce, K.M.; Horan, B.; Irish Dairy Levy (Elsevier, 2016-07-31)
    The productivity of grazing systems is primarily limited by the scale and efficiency of systems applied to the grazable land platform adjacent to the milking parlor. The objective of this study was to compare forage production, utilization and quality, milk production, and requirement for supplementary feeds for 2 different grazing platform stocking rate (GPSR) treatments over 4 yr. Animals were randomly allocated to 1 of 2 GPSR treatments: high-closed (HC; 3.1 cows/ha) and high-open (HO; 4.5 cows/ha), which were designed to represent alternative GPSR in a post-European Union milk quota, spring calving, pasture-based milk production system. Animal production data were analyzed using Proc MIXED of SAS with GPSR, year, and parity included as fixed effects in the final model. Within a seasonal spring calving grazing system, at high GPSR and offering moderate amounts of additional supplements based on pasture supply deficits, both systems produced more milk and fat plus protein per hectare in comparison with Irish commercial dairy farms. Although requiring additional supplementation, increased GPSR resulted in increased milk production per hectare but also in an increased requirement for concentrate and forage supplementation during lactation. No significant influence of GPSR was found on body weight and body condition score or reproductive performance during the 4-yr study period. In addition, GPSR also had no effect on pasture production, utilization, or quality during the study period. The strategic use of additional supplements with restricted pasture availability at higher GPSR maintained milk production per cow and significantly increased milk production per hectare.
  • Microbial composition and omasal flows of bacterial, protozoal, and nonmicrobial amino acids in lactating dairy cows fed fresh perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) not supplemented or supplemented with rolled barley

    Dineen, M.; McCarthy, B.; Dillon, P.; Matthews, C.; Ross, D.; Van Amburgh, M.E.; Dairy Research Ireland Dairy Levy Trust (Elsevier, 2021-04)
    The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of rolled barley supplementation on microbial composition and omasal flows of bacterial, protozoal, and nonmicrobial AA in cows fed fresh perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.; PRG). Ten ruminally cannulated multiparous Holstein cows averaging (mean ± standard deviation) 49 ± 23 d in milk and 513 ± 36 kg of body weight were assigned to 1 of 2 treatments in a switchback design. The treatment diets were PRG only or PRG plus 3.5 kg of dry matter rolled barley (G+RB). The study consisted of three 29-d periods where each period consisted of 21 d of diet adaptation and 8 d of data and sample collection. A double-marker system was used to quantify nutrient flow entering the omasal canal along with 15N-ammonium sulfate to label and measure the microbial and nonmicrobial omasal flow of AA. Overall, rolled barley supplementation had no effect on the AA composition of the omasal liquid-associated and particle-associated bacteria. Rolled barley supplementation affected the AA concentrations of omasal protozoa; however, the differences were nutritionally minor. Particle-associated bacteria AA flow was increased for all AA, except for Trp and Pro, in cows fed the G+RB diet. Rolled barley supplementation had no effect on protozoal AA flow. On average, protozoa accounted for 23% of the microbial essential AA flow, which ranged from 17 to 28% for Trp and Lys, respectively. The flow of all AA in omasal true digesta increased in cows fed the G+RB diet compared with the PRG-only diet, resulting in a 228 g/d increase in total AA flow in cows fed the G+RB diet. This increase in total AA flow in cows fed the G+RB diet was due to an increase in microbial AA flow. Rolled barley supplementation had no effect on nonmicrobial AA flow. The nonmicrobial AA flow modestly contributed to total AA flow, accounting for 15.6% on average. These results indicated that extensive ruminal degradation of PRG AA occurred (83.5%), and we demonstrated that cows consuming PRG-based diets exhibit a large dependence on microbial AA to support metabolizable AA supply. Rolled barley supplementation can increase the omasal flow of microbial AA in cows consuming PRG-based diets. However, further research is required to elucidate if this increased AA supply can support higher milk yield under such dietary conditions.

View more