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

  • Scientific appraisal of the Irish grass-based milk production system as a sustainable source of premium quality milk and dairy products

    O'Brien, Bernadette; Hennessy, Deirdre (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2017-12-29)
    The Irish dairy industry is critically important to the economy and general well-being of a large section of the Irish population. Its quality, sustainability and maintenance are the key for a vibrant rural society in the future. Two important elements for the future of this industry include (a) the quality, marketing and sale of dairy products on the export market and (b) sustainability from the perspectives of people, planet and profit. This paper provides a short review of current scientific evidence in relation to a number of topics, each of which is important in maintaining and developing dairy product quality and the sustainability of the Irish dairy industry. The topics addressed in the paper are as follows: the parameters of milk composition; milk processing; hygiene quality and safety; farm management practices and the regulations that govern such practices; animal health and welfare; environmental impacts; economic implications for farm families and rural communities; and the overall future sustainability of the family-based dairy farm structure.
  • Selection of calibration sub-sets to predict ryegrass quality using principle component analysis for near infrared spectroscopy

    Burns, G. A.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Gilliland, T. J. (British Grassland Society, 2015-09)
    Near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) has become the routine method of assessing forage quality on grass evaluation and breeding programmes. NIRS requires predictive calibration models that relate spectral data to reference values developed using a calibration set (Burns et al. 2013). The samples that form the calibration set influence the accuracy and reliability of these models and need to be representative of samples that will likely be analysed (Shenk and Westerhaus, 1991; Burns et al. 2014). Analysing samples from the calibration set using reference techniques has a significant cost and time associated and needs to be considered in the context of the desired accuracy and robustness of calibration models. Calibration selection techniques can therefore maximise the accuracy and robustness of calibration models whilst reducing the number of samples requiring reference analysis. One such method is principal component analysis (PCA; Shenk and Westerhaus, 1991) whereby Shetty et al. (2012) reported that the number of samples could be reduced by up to 80% with a minimal loss in accuracy of calibration model. PCA selects representative calibration sub-sets through plotting all the samples in hyper-dimensional space, based on spectral data, and a sample is selected to represent a local neighbourhood cluster of samples for reference analysis. The aim of this research was to assess the accuracy of NIRS calibration models for buffering capacity, in vitro dry matter digestibility (DMD) and water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) content developed using calibration sub-sets selected by PCA.
  • Comparison of herbage yield, nutritive value and ensilability traits of three ryegrass species evaluated for the Irish Recommended List

    Burns, G. A.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Grogan, D.; Watson, S.; Gilliland, T. J. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2016-01-13)
    This study examined 169 of the newest varieties of three ryegrass species, perennial (Lolium perenne L.), Italian (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) and hybrid (Lolium boucheanum Kunth), from Recommended List trials in Ireland. The traits examined were yield, dry matter concentration, three nutritive value traits (in vitro dry matter digestibility, water-soluble carbohydrate on a dry matter basis and crude protein concentration) and two ensilability traits (buffering capacity and water soluble carbohydrate concentration on an aqueous phase basis). Varietal monocultures of each species underwent a six cut combined simulated grazing and silage management in each of two years following sowing. Perennial ryegrass yielded less than both other species in one-year-old swards, but less than only Italian ryegrass in two-year-old swards, but generally had the higher in vitro dry matter digestibility and crude protein values. Italian ryegrass displayed the most favourable ensilability characteristics of the three species with perennial ryegrass less favourable and hybrid ryegrass intermediate. Overall, despite the high yields and favourable nutritive value and ensilability traits recorded, the general differences between the three ryegrass species studied were in line with industry expectations. These findings justify assessing the nutritive value and ensilability of ryegrass species, in addition to yield, to allow farmers select species that match farming enterprise requirements.
  • Grazing and ensiling of energy-rich grasses with elevated sugar contents for the sustainable production of ruminant livestock (Acronym: SweetGrass)

    O'Kiely, Padraig; Conaghan, Patrick; Howard, Hilda; Moloney, Aidan P; Black, Alistair D (Teagasc, 2005-09-01)
    Permanent grassland dominates the Irish landscape and for many decades perennial ryegrasses have been the main constituent in seed mixtures for grassland.
  • Studies of Autumn calving suckler cows, bulls at pasture and winter grazing

    Black, Alistair D; O’Riordan, Edward G.; Weldon, B.; French, Padraig (Teagasc, 2010-09)
    Most beef and dairy cows are spring calving leading to distinct seasonality of supply. Calving a proportion of the beef herd in the autumn would lead to a more uniform annual supply of cattle for slaughter and potentially increase the proportion of grazed grass in the diet of the suckler progeny. Autumn calving sucklers also facilitate the use of AI, which should enhance the product quality. This project aimed to address the technical aspects of autumn calving sucklers, which differ from those of spring calvers. The currently available international energy models were evaluated for autumn calving lactating suckler cows using the type of cow typically found in Irish suckler herds (Experiment 1). The winter accommodation of the suckler cow and calf unit and its impact on cow reproductive performance was evaluated (Experiment 2). The final part of the project evolved into component studies to determine the effect of supplementary feed on the performance of grazing bulls (Experiment 3), and the consequences of weanling cattle grazing pasture in winter as an alternative to housing them in winter (Experiments 4 to 7).
  • Soil Properties and their Influence on Grassland Production under Low Input and Organic Farming Conditions

    Leonard, C.; Mullen, G.J.; Culleton, Noel; Breen, J. (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
    This project set out to identify soil properties that most influence grassland production under low mineral nitrogen input conditions. Sixteen farms were selected in Counties Limerick and Clare and the soil sampled. Soil physical and chemical characteristics and soil biological aspects involved in the carbon and nitrogen cycles were studied in the laboratory. Nutrient additions to farms as well as the nature of grazing by livestock (numbers, types of grazing animals, grazing practices), grassland management, and production from the farms were recorded.
  • An evaluation of earth banked tanks for slurry storage

    Scully, Heather; Gleeson, Timothy; Purcell, Patrick J.; O’Riordan, Edward G.; Long, Mike; Crosse, Seamus (Teagasc, 2006-09-01)
    This study examines the feasibility of using earth-banked tanks (EBT’s) as an alternative and economical means of winter storage for animal and other farmyard wastes. The study contains a detailed literature review on the subject, the results of a series of laboratory-scale experiments, field studies and a predictive model of the transport process through the soil liner of an earth-banked tank.
  • A survey of fertilizer use from 2001-2003 for grassland and arable crops

    Coulter, B.S.; Murphy, W.E.; Culleton, Noel; Quinlan, G.; Connolly, Liam (Teagasc, 2005-07-01)
    Farm management data for the years 2001-2003 from the Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) were used as the basis for this fertilizer use survey. The farms which took part in the survey were randomly selected to represent the major farm systems and sizes using information from the CSO Census of Agriculture 2000. Farms were classified into 6 main farm systems namely: dairying, dairying with other enterprises, cattle rearing, cattle with other systems, mainly sheep and tillage systems. These systems refer to the dominant enterprise in each group.
  • Development of an efficient milk production profile of the Irish dairy Industry

    Shalloo, Laurence; Dillon, Pat; Wallace, Michael (Teagasc, 2008-07)
    Fluctuation around milk price will be the biggest factor that the dairy industry will experience over the next number of years. This fluctuation is being driven by fluctuation on the world dairy markets. In the past, when intervention was a much bigger feature of the CAP regime, the fluctuation in world markets had little effect on the EU price. This was because the Intervention system bought product from the market when prices were depressed and placed products on the world market when the price rose. This in effect meant that the CAP regime was having a regulatory effect on the world market as well as the EU markets. An example of the type of fluctuation observed on the world market can be gleamed from the Fonterra milk price in 2006-2007 ($4.50/kg (MS) milk solid) versus 2007-2008 ($7.90/kg MS). This corresponds to a 76% increase in price in 1 year. For the Dairy Industry in Ireland to prosper under these conditions all sectors will be required to be as efficient as possible from the farm, processing and marketing sectors. This report deals with; (1) Milk payment (2) Optimum milk production systems and (3) Seasonality of milk supply. (1) Milk payment systems in Ireland currently do not adequately reward high solids quality milk. Virtually all milk payment systems include a positive constant which reward the production of volume rather than the production of protein and fat kilograms. The A+B-C system of milk payment would adequately reward the production of protein and fat while at the same time correcting for the volume related processing costs. (2) Optimum systems of milk production will be built around the maximization of grass utilization in the future. Grazed grass is the cheapest feed that can be fed to dairy cows. Stocking rates nationally are 1.74cows/Ha around the milking platform and therefore when dairy farms are expanding they should do so by increasing stocking rate. The inclusion of supplementary feeds will reduce profitability for the vast majority of dairy farmers and could only possibly lead to increases in profitability when coupled increases in stocking rate. (3) Grass based systems while substantially reducing costs at farm level result in a seasonal milk supply profile. This results in a reduced capacity utilization of the milk processing facilities as well as restricted product port folio. However the production of Winter milk will lead to significant cost increases at farm level and should only be encouraged if the specific product produced would be sufficient to cover the additional costs associated with over winter production. Within spring calving systems milk payment systems should be used to encourage an efficient milk supply profile with a mean compact calving date of mid February.
  • A Study of Time and Labour Use on Irish Suckler Beef Farms

    Fallon, R.J.; Leahy, H.; O’Riordan, Edward G.; Ruane, D. (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
    Labour is one of the four factors of production and an increasingly costly and scarce input on farms. The attractiveness of non-farming employment, the nature of farm work and the price received for farm outputs are resulting in falling levels of hired and family labour.
  • Manipulation of grass supply to meet feed demand

    French, Padraig; Hennessy, Deirdre; O’Donovan, Michael; Laidlaw, S. (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
    Grazed grass is generally the cheapest form of feed available for beef and milk production in Ireland. Grass growth is variable during the year with a peak in May/June and a secondary peak in August. There is little net growth from December to February. Grass growth is also variable across the country with higher grass growth in the south and south-west (14 to 15 t DM/ha/year) compared with approximately 11 t DM/ha/year in the north-east (Brereton, 1995). There is poor synchrony between grass supply and feed demand on beef and dairy farms. The feed demand curve for a calf to two year old beef system shows feed demand decreasing as grass supply increases, and grass supply decreasing as feed demand increases. Similarly, the feed demand curve of a spring calving dairy herd shows poor synchrony with grass supply, with a surplus of grass from about mid-April to mid-August, and a deficit for the rest of the year. Traditionally surplus grass produced during May and June is conserved as silage or hay and fed back to cattle and dairy cows during the deficit times of the year.
  • The effect of Holstein-Friesian genotype and feeding system on selected performance parameters of dairy cows on grass-based systems of milk production in Ireland

    Dillon, Pat; O’Connor, Paula M.; McCarthy, S.; Shalloo, Laurence; Linnane, M.; Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, James F.; Mee, John F; Horan, Brendan (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
    The overall objective of this project was to assess, the effect of strain of Holstein-Friesian dairy cow, pasture-based feed system (FS) and their interaction on animal performance in terms of milk productivity and lactation profile, body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS), feed intake and energy balance (EB), reproductive performance and overall economic profitability.
  • Aspects of management options for pasture-based dairy production stocked at two cows per hectare

    Humphreys, James; Lawless, Aidan; Healy, M.; Boland, A.; McNamara, K. (Teagasc, 2007-01-01)
    White clover in association with Rhizobium bacteria have the capacity to fix or convent atmospheric N into plant available N. This can make a considerable contribution to sward productivity. One of the objectives of this experiment was to determine the upper carrying capacity of grass-white clover swards receiving 90 kg fertilizer N/ha. A second objective was to examine the impact of grass-clover swards on mineral-N in the soil and losses of nitrate-N from soil to drainage water during the winter. This experiment was conducted at Solohead Research Farm. There were three treatments: (i) A grass-only treatment (FN) stocked at 2.0 cows per ha in 2003 and 2.2 cows per ha during 2004, 2005 and 2006. This treatment received an average of 226 kg per ha of fertilizer N per year during these years. (ii) A grass-clover treatment (WC) stocked at the same rates as FN and received an average of 90 kg per ha of fertilizer N per year during the experiment. (iii) A grass-only treatment (CC) that was gradually converted over to grass-clover during the experiment and stocked at 2.0 cows per ha throughout the experiment. Fertilizer N input was gradually lowered from 150 kg per ha in 2003 to a target of 90 kg per ha in 2005 and 2006.
  • The effect of different levels of spring grass supply and stocking rate on the performance and intake of cows in early lactation

    O'Donovan, Michael; McEvoy, Mary; Kennedy, Emer; Delaby, Luc; Murphy, John (Teagasc, 2008-11-01)
    Grazed herbage can supply nutrients to dairy cows at a lower cost than alternative feeds (Shalloo et al., 2004). Therefore, the objective of pasture-based systems must be to maximize the proportion of grazed grass in the diet of the dairy cow (Dillon et al., 2005). The extension of the grazing season into the early spring period can be facilitated by ceasing grazing of pastures earlier in autumn which allows grass to accumulate, thereby ensuring an adequate herbage supply in early spring when animal demand exceeds grass growth/supply (O’Donovan, 2000). Grazing pastures in early spring has previously been shown to increase herbage utilization and condition swards for subsequent grazing rotations (O’Donovan et al., 2004; Kennedy et al., 2006).
  • Adding value to cull cow beef

    O'Donovan, Michael; Minchin, William; Buckley, Frank; Kenny, David; Shalloo, Laurence (Teagasc, 2009-08-01)
    This project addressed the prospects of increasing the value of cull cow beef and examined the potential of a number of different management and dietary strategies. In Ireland, the national cow herd contributes 350,000 animals to total beef production annually, which represents 22% of all cattle slaughtered (DAF, 2007). A dominant feature of beef production in Ireland is the disposal of cows from the dairy and beef industries, the time of year at which culling occurs influences the number of cows available for slaughter. Suitability of a cow for slaughter is generally not a consideration for dairy or beef farmers.
  • The effect of grass genotype and spring management on the nutritive value of mid-summer ryegrass swards

    O'Donovan, Michael; Hurley, Grainne; Gilliland, Trevor (Teagasc, 2008-07-01)
    The objective of this project was to investigate the environmental, morphological and management factors that control reproductive initiation and development in Lolium perenne L. (perennial ryegrass) and their influence on mid-season sward quality. These factors were assessed on eight perennial ryegrass cultivars through spaced plant and plot studies. The first part of this project determined the effects of meteorological conditions and latitude on reproductive initiation and ear emergence of cultivars over two consecutive years. It was concluded that the critical day length requirement for reproductive initiation varies between perennial ryegrass cultivars and is independent of latitude and the normal range of conditions. Using this information a strong correlation (r2 = 0.94) was found between the critical day length for ear initiation and the ten year standardised ear emergence dates of the cultivars. This correlation was sufficiently robust to predict the critical initiation date for any perennial ryegrass cultivar on a UK recommended list or on the EU common catalogue by using their heading dates from the UK Plant Breeders Rights trials at Crossnacreevy. Large variation was observed for secondary initiation and re-heading between cultivars of similar and varying maturity, which is a major factor reducing mid-season sward quality. The propensity for initiation of re-heading was strongly influenced by the severity of defoliation (intense to very lax), but there was also evidence to suggest that critical day length post-solstice, may determine the latest date when further reproductive initiation could occur. Differences in plant growth modes were clearly evident as the sward structure, plant morphology and nutritive compositions differed significantly between cultivars during the mid-season. Defoliation management also significantly affected mid-season sward structure, morphology and nutritive composition. While the effect of defoliation height on the sward physical and chemical compositions was inconclusive, an intensive (30 mm) defoliation resulted in plants returning to a vegetative growth mode earlier compared to a lax (60 mm) defoliation treatment. It was observed that defoliation at a critical growth stage can significantly affect subsequent sward structures. Delaying initial spring defoliation resulted in a greater leaf proportion and swards of greater herbage quality in the plot study. This study, therefore, established the need for more detailed evaluation of cultivars by national testing authorities to allow farmers to select cultivars for grazing use that will optimise animal intake and performance.
  • A note on the chemical composition and in vitro digestibility of contrasting stover components of maize grown in climatically marginal conditions and harvested at differing maturities.

    Lynch, J.P.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Doyle, E. M. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2014)
    This study evaluated the nutritive value of three contrasting components of maize stover (leaf, upper stem, lower stem) at three harvest dates. The leaf component had a greater in vitro dry matter digestibility (DMD) and a lower NDF concentration, compared to the stem components. Delaying harvest reduced the in vitro DMD of the stem components to a greater extent than leaf, reflecting lower increases in the NDF and lignin concentrations in leaf tissue. The stem components of maize stover had a lower nutritive value than the leaf component, and had a larger decrease in digestibility with delayed harvest.
  • A note on the comparison of three near infrared reflectance spectroscopy calibration strategies for assessing herbage quality of ryegrass

    Burns, G.A.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Grogan, D.; Gilliland, T.J. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2014)
    Perennial ryegrass (n = 1,836), Italian ryegrass (n = 137) and hybrid ryegrass (n = 103) herbage was taken from harvested plots from the Irish national variety evaluation scheme and analysed for in vitro dry matter digestibility, water soluble carbohydrate concentration, crude protein concentration and buffering capacity. Spectral data were obtained using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy and three calibration strategies (global, species-specific or local) were utilised to relate the reference values to the spectral data. The local strategy generally provided the poorest estimation of herbage composition, with global and species-specific calibration strategies producing similarly accurate estimates of each quality trait. The higher accuracy and easier maintenance of the global strategy make it the recommended calibration method for analysing quality of ryegrass.
  • A note on the fermentation characteristics of red clover silage in response to advancing stage of maturity in the primary growth Corrigendum

    King, Colman; McEniry, Joseph; O'Kiely, Padraig (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2014)
  • The effect of water-soluble carbohydrate concentration and type on in vitro rumen methane output of perennial ryegrass determined using a 24-hour batch-culture gas production technique

    Purcell, Peter J; Boland, T.M.; O'Kiely, Padraig (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2014)
    The objective of this study was to examine the effects of water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) concentration and type on the in vitro rumen methane (CH4) output of perennial ryegrass (PR) using a 24-hour batch-culture gas production technique. Dried and milled PR was incubated either alone (PR-O) or with added sucrose (PR-S), inulin (PR-I), or sucrose plus inulin (PR-S+I; sucrose:inulin ratio of 1:4) in sealed glass bottles [0.5 g total substrate dry matter (DM) per bottle] at 39 °C for 24 hours with buffered rumen fluid. The WSC types were added (except for PR-O) so that the WSC concentration in each fermentation bottle at the start of the incubation was either 180 (i.e., PR-O), 225, 270, 315, or 360 g/kg of total substrate DM incubated. There were linear decreases in CH4 output per gram of DM disappeared (CH4/ivDMD) and per mmol of total volatile fatty acid output (CH4/tVFA) with increasing WSC concentration in the incubated substrate. The WSC type had no effect on in vitro rumen CH4 output. It is concluded that since CH4/ivDMD and CH4/tVFA were reduced by increasing the concentration of WSC incubated with PR, it would be worthwhile to undertake in vivo experiments to examine these effects on in vivo CH4 emissions per unit of animal product.

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