• Nutritive value of forage legumes used for grazing and silage

      Dewhurst, Richard J.; Delaby, Luc; Moloney, Aidan P; Boland, T. M.; Lewis, Eva (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2009)
      Legume forages have an important position in ruminant production in Western Europe and with further development can play an even larger role. Red clover for silage and white clover in grazed swards lead to enhanced growth rate and milk yield in comparison with pure grasses. Much of the production benefit of these legumes relates to enhanced intake since digestibilities are not markedly different to grasses. The higher intake of legume silages reflects differences in the cell structure of legume plants which combined with high fermentation rates means that they break down into small particles in the rumen, and leave the rumen more rapidly than perennial ryegrass. Ease of ingestion leads to high rates of intake, which explains higher intakes for grazed legumes. A further benefit of legumes is the reduced rate of decline in digestibility with advancing maturity. Whilst legumes have limited effects on gross milk composition or carcass characteristics, there are marked increases in levels of beneficial n−3 PUFA. Legumes have often led to a reduction in methane production from the rumen and again, this relates to both physical and chemical differences between forage species. The high rates of release of soluble protein and of breakdown to small particles from clovers and lucerne is associated with susceptibility to bloat, which is a limitation to further exploitation in grazing systems. The high concentration of rapidly degraded protein in legumes also leads to inefficient utilisation of dietary N and increased urinary N output. Research with tanniniferous forages, such as birdsfoot trefoil and sulla, demonstrates the potential for future legumes with reduced environmental and health effects, though these particular forage legumes are not well adapted to temperate regions of Western Europe that are the focus of this review.
    • Relationship between dairy cow genetic merit and profit on commercial spring calving dairy farms

      Ramsbottom, George; Cromie, A. R.; Horan, Brendan; Berry, Donagh (Cambridge University Press, 2011-12)
      Because not all animal factors influencing profitability can be included in total merit breeding indices for profitability, the association between animal total merit index and true profitability, taking cognisance of all factors associated with costs and revenues, is generally not known. One method to estimate such associations is at the herd level, associating herd average genetic merit with herd profitability. The objective of this study was to primarily relate herd average genetic merit for a range of traits, including the Irish total merit index, with indicators of performance, including profitability, using correlation and multiple regression analyses. Physical, genetic and financial performance data from 1131 Irish seasonal calving pasture-based dairy farms were available following edits; data on some herds were available for more than 1 year of the 3-year study period (2007 to 2009). Herd average economic breeding index (EBI) was associated with reduced herd average phenotypic milk yield but with greater milk composition, resulting in higher milk prices. Moderate positive correlations (0.26 to 0.61) existed between genetic merit for an individual trait and average herd performance for that trait (e.g. genetic merit for milk yield and average per cow milk yield). Following adjustment for year, stocking rate, herd size and quantity of purchased feed in the multiple regression analysis, average herd EBI was positively and linearly associated with net margin per cow and per litre as well as gross revenue output per cow and per litre. The change in net margin per cow per unit change in the total merit index was h1.94 (s.e.50.42), which was not different from the expectation of h2. This study, based on a large data set of commercial herds with accurate information on profitability and genetic merit, confirms that, after accounting for confounding factors, the change in herd profitability per unit change in herd genetic merit for the total merit index is within expectations.