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

  • 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.
  • Investigating the role of stocking rate and prolificacy potential on profitability of grass based sheep production systems

    Bohan, A.; Creighton, Philip; Boland, T.M.; Shalloo, Laurence; Earle, Elizabeth; McHugh, Noirin; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 15/S/696 (Elsevier BV, 2018-02-21)
    The objective of this study was to simulate and compare the profitability of a grass based sheep production system under three stocking rates and two prolificacy rates. Analysis was conducted using the Teagasc Lamb Production Model (TLPM), a stochastic budgetary simulation model of a sheep farm. Experimental data from the Teagasc Athenry Research Demonstration Flock was used to parameterise the model at three stocking rates (10, 12 and 14 ewes/ha) and two prolificacy potentials (1.5 and 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe joined to the ram). The TLPM assessed the performance of the key factors affecting profitability and was also used to evaluate the spread in profitability associated with some stochastic variables included in the analysis. The number of lambs weaned per hectare increased with stocking rate and prolificacy potential from 16 lambs/ha to 27 lambs/ha resulting in carcass weight produced per hectare ranging from 272 kg/ha to 474 kg/ha. Increasing stocking rates resulted in lower individual lamb performance from grass and milk, thereby increasing the proportion of lambs which required concentrate for finishing, which resulted in higher input costs on a per animal basis. As the number of lambs weaned per hectare increased, net profit increased from €361/ha to €802/ha. Across all stocking rates, increasing weaning rate from 1.5 to 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe joined increased net profit, on average, by €336/ha. Increasing stocking rate, at 1.5 lambs weaned per ewe joined, increased net profit on average by €15/ha while increasing stocking rate, at 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe joined increased net profit on average by €87/ha. Risk analysis showed that across all stocking rates the high prolificacy scenarios achieved greater profits across the variation in input variables. Results from this study indicate that lambs weaned per hectare linked with grass growth and utilisations are the key drivers of profitability on Irish grass based sheep production systems.
  • The effect of target postgrazing height on sward clover content, herbage yield, and dairy production from grass-white clover pasture

    Phelan, Paul; Casey, Imelda A.; Humphreys, James; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; RSF 07-511 (Elsevier, 2013-01-16)
    White clover (Trifolium repens) is an important legume for grazed grassland that can increase the profitability and environmental sustainability of milk production. Previous experiments on mown grass-clover plots suggest that low postgrazing heights (PGH) can increase sward clover content and herbage production. However, this has not been tested in actual strip or rotational grazing systems with dairy cows. Furthermore, lowering PGH in grass-only swards (typically perennial ryegrass without white clover) has previously been associated with reduced milk yields per cow. The objective of this experiment was to investigate the effect of PGH by dairy cows on clover content, herbage production, and milk production from strip-grazed grass-white clover swards in Ireland. Three target PGH treatments of 4, 5, and 6 cm were in place for entire grazing seasons (February to November) for 3 consecutive years (2007 to 2009). Each treatment had a mean of 21 Holstein-Friesian dairy cows that strip-grazed a mean annual area of 10.2 ha. Postgrazing height was measured twice a day with a rising plate meter, and cows were moved to the next strip once the target PGH was reached. Annual fertilizer nitrogen input was 90 kg of N/ha for each treatment. The PGH treatment did not significantly affect annual milk yield (6,202 kg/cow), solids-corrected milk yield (6,148 kg/cow), fat, protein, or lactose yields (265, 222, and 289 kg/cow, respectively), cow liveweight (592 kg) or body condition score (3.01). The PGH treatment also had no significant effect on sward white clover content (196 g/kg). However, herbage production of both grass and clover were significantly higher with the 4-cm PGH treatment compared with the 6-cm treatment. Mean annual herbage yields were 11.1, 10.2, and 9.1 t of organic matter (OM)/ha for the 4-, 5-, and 6-cm PGH treatments, respectively. The lower herbage production in the 6-cm PGH treatment resulted in lower annual silage production, greater housing requirements, and a substantially higher net silage deficit (−1,917 kg of OM/cow) compared with the 5- or 4-cm treatments (−868 and −192 kg of OM/cow, respectively). Grazing to a PGH of 4 cm is therefore recommended for grass-white clover swards.
  • 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, Bríd; Gilliland, Trevor J.; Delaby, Luc; Guy, Clare; Dineen, Michael; Coughlan, Fergal; McCarthy, Brian; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Dairy Research Ireland (Elsevier, 2019-07-10)
    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.
  • Teagasc Hill Sheep Conference 2017 Programme

    Boyle, Gerry; Kirby, Tim; O'Sullivan, Kevin; Byrne, Declan; Keena, Catherine; Maguire, Fergal; Sheridan, Helen; Gorman, Monica; McLaren, Ann; Lambe, Nicola; et al. (Teagasc, 2017-02-08)
    Proceedings of the Teagasc Hill Sheep Conference 2017 which took place on the 8th of February 2017 in the The Malton Hotel, Killarney, Co. Kerry.
  • Milk production of Holstein-Friesian cows of divergent Economic Breeding Index evaluated under seasonal pasture-based management

    O'Sullivan, Margaret; Horan, Brendan; Pierce, Karina M.; McParland, Sinead; O'Sullivan, Kathleen; Buckley, Frank (Elsevier, 2019-01-03)
    The objective of this study was to validate the effect of genetic improvement using the Irish genetic merit index, the Economic Breeding Index (EBI), on total lactation performance and lactation profiles for milk yield, milk solids yield (fat plus protein; kg), and milk fat, protein, and lactose content within 3 pasture-based feeding treatments (FT) and to investigate whether an interaction exists between genetic group (GG) of Holstein-Friesian and pasture-based FT. The 2 GG were (1) extremely high EBI representative of the top 5% nationally (referred to as the elite group) and (2) representative of the national average EBI (referred to as the NA group). Cows from each GG were randomly allocated each year to 1 of 3 pasture-based FT: control, lower grass allowance, and high concentrate. The effects of GG, FT, year, parity, and the interaction between GG and FT adjusted for calving day of year on milk and milk solids (fat plus protein; kg) production across lactation were studied using mixed models. Cow was nested within GG to account for repeated cow records across years. The overall and stage of lactation-specific responses to concentrate supplementation (high concentrate vs. control) and reduced pasture allowance (lower grass allowance vs. control) were tested. Profiles of daily milk yield, milk solids yield, and milk fat, protein, and lactose content for each week of lactation for the elite and NA groups within each FT and for each parity group within the elite and NA groups were generated. Phenotypic performance was regressed against individual cow genetic potential based on predicted transmitting ability. The NA cows produced the highest milk yield. Milk fat and protein content was higher for the elite group and consequently yield of solids-corrected milk was similar, whereas yield of milk solids tended to be higher for the elite group compared with the NA group. Milk lactose content did not differ between GG. Responses to concentrate supplementation or reduced pasture allowance did not differ between GG. Milk production profiles illustrated that elite cows maintained higher production but with lower persistency than NA cows. Regression of phenotypic performance against predicted transmitting ability illustrated that performance was broadly in line with expectation. The results illustrate that the superiority of high-EBI cattle is consistent across diverse pasture-based FT. The results also highlight the success of the EBI to deliver production performance in line with the national breeding objective: lower milk volume with higher fat and protein content.
  • 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, 2017-03-22)
    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.
  • Deriving economic values for national sheep breeding objectives using a bio-economic model

    Bohan, Alan; Shalloo, Laurence; Creighton, Philip; Berry, Donagh; Boland, T. M.; O'Brien, Aine; Pabiou, Thierry; Wall, E.; McDermott, Kevin; McHugh, Noirin; et al. (Elsevier, 2019-05-27)
    The economic value of a trait in a breeding objective can be defined as the value of a unit change in an individual trait, while keeping all other traits constant and are widely used in the development of breeding objectives internationally. The objective of this study was to provide a description of the development of economic values for the pertinent traits included in the Irish national sheep breeding objectives using a whole farm system bio-economic model. A total of fourteen traits of economic importance representing maternal, lambing, production and health characteristics were calculated within a whole farm bio-economic model. The model was parameterised to represent an average Irish flock of 107 ewes with a mean lambing date in early March, stocked at 7.5 ewes per hectare and weaning 1.5 lambs per ewe joined to the ram. The economic values (units in parenthesis) calculated for maternal traits were: €39.76 for number of lambs born (per lamb), €0.12 for ewe mature weight cull value (per kg), −€0.57 for ewe mature weight maintenance value (per kg), −€0.09 for ewe mature weight replacement value (per kg) and −€0.84 for ewe replacement rate (per%). The economic values calculated for lambing traits were: €54.84 for lamb surviving at birth (per lamb), −€0.27 and −€0.30 for direct lambing difficulty in single and multiple-bearing ewes, respectively (per%); the corresponding values for maternal single and multiple lambing difficulty (per%) were −€0.25 and −€0.27, respectively. The calculated economic values for production traits were: −€0.25 for days to slaughter (per day), €3.70 for carcass Conformation (per EUROP grade) and −€0.84 for carcass fat (per fat score). The economic values for health traits were: −€0.24 for ewe lameness (per%), −€0.08 for lamb lameness (per%), −€0.25 for mastitis (per%), −€0.34 for dag score (per dag score) and −€0.08 for faecal egg count (per 50 eggs/g). Within the two Irish breeding objectives, the terminal and replacement breeding objective, the greatest emphasis was placed on production traits across both the terminal (62.56%) and replacement (41.65%) breeding objectives. The maternal and lambing traits accounted for the 34.19% and 23.45% of the emphasis within the replacement breeding objective, respectively. Results from this study will enable the implementation of new economic values within the national terminal and replacement Irish sheep breeding objectives which highlights the traits of importance for increasing overall farm profitability.
  • Using variable importance measures to identify a small set of SNPs to predict heading date in perennial ryegrass.

    Byrne, Stephen; Conaghan, Patrick; Barth, Susanne; Arojju, Sai Krishna; Casler, Michael; Michel, Thibauld; Velmurugan, Janaki; Milbourne, Dan; E.U. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; et al. (Nature, 2017-06-15)
    Prior knowledge on heading date enables the selection of parents of synthetic cultivars that are well matched with respect to time of heading, which is essential to ensure plants put together will cross pollinate. Heading date of individual plants can be determined via direct phenotyping, which has a time and labour cost. It can also be inferred from family means, although the spread in days to heading within families demands roguing in first generation synthetics. Another option is to predict heading date from molecular markers. In this study we used a large training population consisting of individual plants to develop equations to predict heading date from marker genotypes. Using permutation-based variable selection measures we reduced the marker set from 217,563 to 50 without impacting the predictive ability. Opportunities exist to develop a cheap assay to sequence a small number of regions in linkage disequilibrium with heading date QTL in thousands of samples. Simultaneous use of these markers in non-linkage based marker-assisted selection approaches, such as paternity testing, should enhance the utility of such an approach.
  • Teagasc submission made in response to the Consultation Paper on Interim Review of Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation 2019

    Spink, John; Buckley, Cathal; Burgess, Edward; Daly, Karen M.; Dillon, Pat; Fenton, Owen; Horan, Brendan; Humphreys, James; Hyde, Tim; McCarthy, Brian; et al. (Teagasc, 2019-06-04)
    This submission was made in response to the consultation process run jointly by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (DHPCLG) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) inviting views and comments on proposals for the Interim Review of Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation Programme in 2019. It has been prepared by Teagasc’s Water Quality Working Group in consultation with the Gaseous Emissions Working Group. These working groups have members drawn from both the Knowledge Transfer and Research Directorates of Teagasc. It was prepared following consultation with colleagues across Teagasc using their collective knowledge and expertise in agri-environmental science and practice and the implementation of the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and Nitrates Derogation Regulations.
  • Evaluation of the n-alkane technique for estimating herbage dry matter intake of dairy cows offered herbage harvested at two different stages of growth in summer and autumn

    Wright, Marliene; Lewis, Eva; Garry, B.; Galvin, Norann; Dunshea, Frank; Hannah, M.C.; Auldist, Martin J.; Wales, W.J.; Dillon, Pat; Kennedy, Emer; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-11-10)
    The n-alkane technique for estimating herbage dry matter intake (DMI) of dairy cows was investigated in this experiment. Eight Holstein-Friesian dairy cows were offered perennial ryegrass ad libitum that had been harvested at two different herbage masses and during two different seasons, in order to assess the effect of herbage mass and season on the accuracy of the n-alkane technique. Two pre-harvested herbage mass treatments (low, target 1500 kg DM/ha versus high, target 4000 kg DM/ha, measured above 4 cm), were investigated in a crossover factorial arrangement within each of two seasons (summer versus autumn), in Ireland. Each season consisted of two periods, each 12 days in length. Cows were housed in individual metabolism stalls to allow for accurate determination of measured DMI. Herbage DMI was estimated, with the n-alkane technique, by dosing cows twice daily with a C32 n-alkane. Pre-harvest herbage mass and season did not affect the n-alkane estimated DMI, although lack of season and herbage mass effects may have been masked by variation that occurred between swards within the same herbage mass and season. However, there were a number of differences between summer and autumn in the fecal recovery rates of a number of n-alkanes suggesting that the effect of season requires further investigation prior to the application of recovery rates from literature values when investigating diet selection and botanical composition. Overall, the n-alkane technique provided good estimates of DMI; the discrepancy had a standard deviation due to sward of 1.2 and 1.0 kg DM/cow per day, and hence potential bias of up to twice this, and a measurement error standard deviation of 1.3 and 1.0 kg DM/cow per day, for the C33/C32 and C31/C32 n-alkane pair methods respectively. Two n-alkane pairs were tested, and C33/C32 n-alkane provided the most precise estimates of DMI, compared with the C31/C32 n-alkane pair. This research provides some strong evidence for future use of the n-alkane technique including that the accuracy of the technique has not been influenced by contemporary changes to herbage management, is not affected by seasonal changes, and overall is an accurate and precise technique for estimating DMI.
  • Effects of fertiliser nitrogen rate to spring grass on apparent digestibility, nitrogen balance, ruminal fermentation and microbial nitrogen production in beef cattle and in vitro rumen fermentation and methane output

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

    Boiani, Mattia; Sundekilde, Ulrik; Bateman, Lorraine M.; McCarthy, Daniel G.; Maguire, Anita R.; Gulati, Arunima; Guinee, Timothy P.; Fenelon, Mark; Hennessy, Deirdre; Fitzgerald, Richard J.; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-10-11)
    The influence of dairy cow feeding regime was investigated using 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Two different NMR analytical systems were deployed: high field 1H NMR to investigate the influence on milk metabolomics and low field NMR to characterise proton relaxation linked to changes in the state of mozzarella cheese moisture during ripening. The metabolomics results showed that grass-based feeding increased the concentration of a biological marker that signifies near-organic milk production conditions. On the other hand, the investigation of cheese moisture distribution showed that grass-based diets reached final moisture partitioning in a shorter time, which implied the formation of a more compact protein structure in the cheese matrix. These results indicate that pasture-based dairying may be differentiated in terms of the provenance of milk produced along with the accrual of additional benefits during ripening of the resulting mozzarella cheeses.

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