• 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.
    • The economics of reseeding on a dairy farm

      Shalloo, Laurence; Creighton, Philip; O'Donovan, Michael (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      Herbage production and utilization on Irish dairy farms is well below its potential. A number of factors influence herbage production and utilization, not least the level of annual reseeding (introduction of a new grass ley) on the farm. The potential farm performance is reduced by old permanent pasture due to the combined effects of reduced out-of-season herbage production and lower overall herbage yield when compared to perennial ryegrass. Based on the sales of grass seed, it is estimated that approximately 2% of the land area on dairy farms in Ireland is reseeded annually. This has created a situation where the overall percentage of perennial ryegrass in sward is low. The objective of the present study was to investigate the economic benefits of reseeding through simulating the consequences of reseeding different proportions of the farm on an annual basis. Four levels of an annual reseeding programme were evaluated: 1%, 5%, 10% and 15% of the farm reseeded annually; evaluated at three milk prices (20 c/L, 27c/L and 33 c/L). Increasing the level of reseeding resulted in an increase in total and seasonal herbage production and, when accompanied by an increased stocking rate, increased herbage utilization. At a milk price of 27 c/L, farm profitability was €20 764, €24 794, €30 073 and €33 515 on a 40 ha farm when 1%, 5%, 10% and 15%, respectively, of the farm was reseeded annually. Irrespective of milk price, increasing the level of reseeding had a positive effect on profitability and the highest gain was achieved at the highest milk price. Sensitivity analysis showed that sward persistency and, to a lesser extent, herbage utilization had significant effects on the benefit from reseeding.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Ruminant grassland production systems in Ireland

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