• 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).
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Urine patch distribution under dairy grazing at three stocking rates in Ireland

      Dennis, S.J.; Moir, James L.; Cameron, K.C.; Di, H.J.; Hennessy, Deirdre; Richards, Karl G. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      Nitrate pollution of water is a serious global environmental issue. Grassland agriculture is a major source of diffuse nitrate pollution, with much of this nitrate originating from the urine patches of grazing animals. To study nitrate losses from grassland it is necessary to consider the areas of grassland that are affected by urine separately from the remainder of the pasture. Urine patches can be observed in the field as areas of vigorously growing pasture, however the pasture may continue to respond for several months, making it difficult to determine when the observed patch was actually deposited. A global positioning system was used to record the location of all urine and dung patches in a pasture at every second grazing on an Irish dairy farm during the grazing season. Any patches reappearing were removed from the data, allowing the fresh urine patches to be identified. Dairy cows deposited 0.359 urine patches per grazing hour, a value that may be used to predict the distribution of urine patches under any grazing regime. This equated to 14.1 to 20.7% of the soil surface being wet by urine annually at stocking rates of 2.0 to 2.94 cows per hectare, consistent with previous research. These values may be used in conjunction with values for nitrate loss from urine and non-urine areas to calculate nitrate losses from grazed pasture at a range of stocking rates.