• Factors associated with the financial performance of spring-calving, pasture-based dairy farms

      Ramsbottom, George; Horan, Brendan; Berry, Donagh; Roche, John R. (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2015-03)
      As land becomes a limiting resource for pasture-based dairy farming, the inclusion of purchased supplementary feeds to increase milk production per cow (through greater dry matter intake) and per hectare (through increased stocking rate) is often proposed as a strategy to increase profitability. Although a plausible proposition, virtually no analysis has been done on the effect of such intensification on the profitability of commercial pasture-based dairy farm businesses. The objective of this study was to characterize the average physical and financial performance of dairy systems differing in the proportion of the cow’s diet coming from grazed pasture versus purchased supplementary feeds over 4 yr, while accounting for any interaction with geographic region. Physical, genetic, and financial performance data from 1,561 seasonal-calving, pasture-based dairy farms in Ireland were available between the years 2008 and 2011; data from some herds were available for more than 1 yr of the 4-yr study period, providing data from 2,759 dairy farm-years. The data set was divided into geographic regions, based on latitude, rainfall, and soil characteristics that relate to drainage; these factors influence the length of the pasture growth season and the timing of turnout to pasture in spring and rehousing in autumn. Farms were also categorized by the quantity of feed purchased; farms in which cows received <10, 11–20, 21–30, or >30% of their annual feed requirements from purchased feed were considered to be categories representative of increasing levels of system intensification. Geographic region was associated with differences in grazing days, pasture harvested per hectare, milk production per cow and per hectare, and farm profitability. Farms in regions with longer grazing seasons harvested a greater amount of pasture [an additional 19 kg of dry matter (DM)/ha per grazing day per hectare], and greater pasture harvested was associated with increased milk component yield per hectare (58.4 kg of fat and 51.4 kg of protein more per tonne of DM pasture harvested/ha) and net profit per hectare (€268/ha more per tonne of DM harvested). Milk yield and yield of milk components per cow and per hectare increased linearly with increased use of purchased feed (additional 30.6 kg of milk fat and 26.7 kg of milk protein per tonne of DM purchased feed per hectare), but, on average, pasture harvested/hectare and net profit/hectare declined (−0.60 t of DM/ha and −€78.2/ha, respectively) with every tonne of DM supplementary feed purchased per hectare. The results indicate an effect of purchased feeds not usually accounted for in marginal economic analyses (e.g., milk to feed price ratio): the decline in pasture harvested/hectare, with the costs of producing the unutilized pasture in addition to the cost of feed resulting in a lower profit. In conclusion, greater milk component yields per cow were associated with increased profit per hectare, and a greater use of purchased feeds was associated with an increase in the yield of milk components. However, on average, increasing yield of milk components through the supply of purchased feeds to pasture-based cows was associated with a decline in pasture harvested per hectare and profitability. The decline in pasture harvested per hectare with increased use of purchased supplements per cow is probably the primary reason for the low milk production response and the failure to capitalize on the potential benefits of purchased supplements, with the associated costs of growing the unutilized pasture, in conjunction with increased nonfeed variable and fixed costs outweighing the increased milk production and revenue from supplementation. Farmers considering intensification through use of purchased supplements to increase the stock-carrying capacity of the farm (i.e., stocking rate) must ensure that they focus on management of pasture and total cost control to capture the potential benefits of supplementary feed use.
    • Factors influencing the conservation characteristics of baled and precision-chop grass silages

      McEniry, Joseph; Forristal, P.D.; O'Kiely, Padraig (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      The composition of baled silage on Irish farms frequently differs from that of comparable precision-chop silage. This paper concerns a field-scale study designed to investigate: (a) the effects of number of layers (2, 4, 6 or 8) of polyethylene stretch film and the duration of storage (7 vs. 18 months) on the conservation characteristics of baled silage, and (b) the conservation characteristics of baled (4 layers of stretch film) and precision-chop silages. All silages were made following three durations of wilting (0, 24 or 48 h). Wilting restricted silage fermentation, with silage pH being highest (P<0.001) and the concentration of fermentation products lowest (P<0.001) for the 48 h wilt treatment. Wrapping bales in only 2 layers of polyethylene stretch film resulted in extensive visible mould growth, but mould growth was practically eliminated by the application of 4 or more layers of film. Silage fermentation characteristics were generally improved by wilting, and by 4 compared to 2 layers of stretch film. Extending the storage duration of baled silage from 7 to 18 months reduced (P<0.001) the concentration of fermentation products and increased in-silo fresh weight losses (P<0.001) and visible mould growth. Whereas 4 layers of conventional stretch film are normally sufficient, 6 layers may be necessary to prevent mould growth when bales of unwilted silage are stored for a second season. Under good farm-management conditions differences observed between baled and precision-chop silages probably result mainly from differences in the concentration of dry matter in herbage at ensiling.
    • The fatty acid profile and stable isotope ratios of C and N of muscle from cattle that grazed grass or grass/clover pastures before slaughter and their discriminatory potential

      Moloney, Aidan P; O'Riordan, Edward G.; Schmidt, Olaf; Monahan, Frank J (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2018-11-09)
      Consumption of grazed pasture compared to concentrates results in higher concentrations, in beef muscle, of fatty acids considered to be beneficial to human health. Little information is available on the influence of the type of grazed forage. Our objectives were to determine 1) the effect of inclusion of white clover in a grazing sward on the fatty acid profile of beef muscle and 2) the potential of the fatty acid profile and stable isotope ratios of C and N to discriminate between beef from cattle that grazed grass-only or grass/clover swards before slaughter. A total of 28 spring-born Charolais steers grazed from March until slaughter in October, either on a perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) sward that received approximately 220 kg N/ha or a perennial ryegrass–white clover (Trifolium repens L.) sward that received 50 kg N/ha. The longissimus muscle from cattle finished on grass/clover had a higher (P < 0.05) proportion of C18:2 and C18:3 but a lower (P < 0.05) proportion of conjugated linoleic acid and δ15N value than animals finished on the grass-only sward. Discriminant analysis using the fatty acid data showed that, after cross-validation, 80.7% of grass/clover and 86.1% of grass-only muscle samples were correctly classified. Discriminant analysis using the stable isotope data showed that, after cross-validation, 95.7% of grass/clover and 86.5% of grass-only muscle samples were correctly classified. Inclusion of white clover in pasture is likely to have little effect on healthiness of meat for consumers. However, changes in fatty acids and stable isotopes can be used to distinguish between grass/clover-fed and grass-only-fed beef.
    • Feed intake pattern, behaviour, rumen characteristics and blood metabolites of finishing beef steers offered total mixed rations constituted at feeding or ensiling

      Cummins, B.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Keane, Michael G.; Kenny, David A.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2009)
      Two experiments were undertaken. In Experiment 1, behaviour, intake pattern and blood metabolites, were recorded for steers offered total mixed rations (TMR) based on grass silage and concentrates, and constituted either at ensiling (E-TMR) or feedout (F-TMR). Fourteen continental crossbred steers (mean starting weight 505 (s.d. 41.5) kg) were assigned to each of the following eight treatments: grass silage offered ad libitum (SO), E-TMR diets constituted in approximate dry matter (DM) ratios of grass:concentrates of 75:25 (EL), 50:50 (EM) and 25:75 (EH), F-TMR diets constituted in approximate DM ratios of grass silage:concentrates of 75:25 (FL), 50:50 (FM) and 25:75 (FH), and finally concentrates ad libitum (AL). Total DM intake increased linearly (P < 0.001) and the time spent eating and ruminating decreased linearly (P < 0.001) with increasing concentrate proportion. Animals on the F-TMR diets had higher total DM intakes (P < 0.05) and plasma glucose (P < 0.05) and urea (P < 0.001) concentrations than animals on the corresponding E-TMR diets. No effect of method of feed preparation on intake pattern or behaviour was recorded. In Experiment 2, four ruminally cannulated Holstein-Friesian steers of mean initial live weight 630 (s.d. 23.2) kg were used to evaluate rumen characteristics for four of the above diets (FL, EL, FH and EH) in a 4 × 4 latin square design. Higher concentrate diets resulted in lower rumen pH (P < 0.05), higher lactic acid (P < 0.001) and ammonia (P < 0.05) concentrations and lower acetate:propionate (P < 0.05). F-TMR was associated with a higher (P < 0.05) rumen volatile fatty acid concentration but no difference in other rumen fermentation characteristics compared to E-TMR. Concentrate proportion and method of feed preparation had no effect (P > 0.05) on rumen pool sizes but animals consuming the high concentrate diet had a faster (P < 0.05) rumen passage rate of NDF than animals on the low concentrate diet.
    • Forage type influences milk yield and ruminal responses to wheat adaptation in late-lactation dairy cows

      Russo, Victoria M.; Leury, B.J.; Kennedy, Emer; Hannah, M.C.; Auldist, M.J.; Wales, W.J.; Agriculture Victoria Research; Dairy Australia; Teagasc; The University of Melbourne (Elsevier, 2018-08-23)
      The effects of different wheat adaptation strategies on ruminal fluid pH, dry matter intake (DMI) and energy-corrected milk (ECM) were measured in 28 late-lactation dairy cows. Cows were fed either perennial ryegrass (PRG) hay or alfalfa hay and had no previous wheat adaptation. Wheat was gradually substituted for forage in 3 even increments, over 6 or 11 d, until wheat made up 40% of DMI (∼8 kg of dry matter/cow per day). We found no differences in DMI between adaptation strategies (6 or 11 d) within forage type; however, cows fed alfalfa hay consumed more overall and produced more ECM. The rate of ruminal pH decline after feeding, as well as the decrease in mean, minimum, and maximum ruminal pH with every additional kilogram of wheat was greater for cows fed alfalfa hay. Cows fed alfalfa hay and on the 6-d adaptation strategy had the lowest mean and minimum ruminal fluid pH on 3 consecutive days and were the only treatment group to record pH values below 6.0. Despite ruminal pH declining to levels typically considered low, no other measured parameters indicated compromised fermentation or acidosis. Rather, cows fed alfalfa hay and adapted to wheat over 6 d had greater ECM yields than cows on the 11-d strategy. This was due to the 6-d adaptation strategy increasing the metabolizable energy intake in a shorter period than the 11-d strategy, as substituting wheat for alfalfa hay caused a substantial increase in the metabolizable energy concentration of the diet. We found no difference in ECM between adaptation strategies when PRG hay was fed, as there was no difference in metabolizable energy intake. The higher metabolizable energy concentration and lower intake of the PRG hay meant the increase in metabolizable energy intake with the substitution of wheat was less pronounced for cows consuming PRG hay compared with alfalfa hay. Neither forage type nor adaptation strategy affected time spent ruminating. The higher intakes likely contributed to the lower ruminal pH values from the alfalfa hay treatments. However, both forages allowed the rumen contents to resist the large declines in ruminal pH typically seen during rapid grain adaptation. Depending on the choice of base forage, rapid grain introduction may not result in poor adaptation. In situations where high-energy grains are substituted for a low-energy, high-fiber basal forage, rapid introduction could prove beneficial over gradual strategies.
    • Gastrointestinal tract size, total-tract digestibility, and rumen microflora in different dairy cow genotypes

      Beecher, Marion; Buckley, Frank; Waters, Sinead M.; Boland, T. M.; Enriquez-Hidalgo, D.; Deighton, M. H.; O'Donovan, Michael; Lewis, Eva (Elsevier Inc and American Dairy Science Association, 2014-04-03)
      The superior milk production efficiency of Jersey (JE) and Jersey × Holstein-Friesian (JE × HF) cows compared with Holstein-Friesian (HF) has been widely published. The biological differences among dairy cow genotypes, which could contribute to the milk production efficiency differences, have not been as widely studied however. A series of component studies were conducted using cows sourced from a longer-term genotype comparison study (JE, JE × HF, and HF). The objectives were to (1) determine if differences exist among genotypes regarding gastrointestinal tract (GIT) weight, (2) assess and quantify whether the genotypes tested differ in their ability to digest perennial ryegrass, and (3) examine the relative abundance of specific rumen microbial populations potentially relating to feed digestibility. Over 3 yr, the GIT weight was obtained from 33 HF, 35 JE, and 27 JE × HF nonlactating cows postslaughter. During the dry period the cows were offered a perennial ryegrass silage diet at maintenance level. The unadjusted GIT weight was heavier for the HF than for JE and JE × HF. When expressed as a proportion of body weight (BW), JE and JE × HF had a heavier GIT weight than HF. In vivo digestibility was evaluated on 16 each of JE, JE × HF, and HF lactating dairy cows. Cows were individually stalled, allowing for the total collection of feces and were offered freshly cut grass twice daily. During this time, daily milk yield, BW, and dry matter intake (DMI) were greater for HF and JE × HF than for JE; milk fat and protein concentration ranked oppositely. Daily milk solids yield did not differ among the 3 genotypes. Intake capacity, expressed as DMI per BW, tended to be different among treatments, with JE having the greatest DMI per BW, HF the lowest, and JE × HF being intermediate. Production efficiency, expressed as milk solids per DMI, was higher for JE than HF and JE × HF. Digestive efficiency, expressed as digestibility of dry matter, organic matter, N, neutral detergent fiber, and acid detergent fiber, was higher for JE than HF. In grazing cows (n = 15 per genotype) samples of rumen fluid, collected using a transesophageal sampling device, were analyzed to determine the relative abundance of rumen microbial populations of cellulolytic bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. These are critically important for fermentation of feed into short-chain fatty acids. A decrease was observed in the relative abundance of Ruminococcus flavefaciens in the JE rumen compared with HF and JE × HF. We can deduce from this study that the JE genotype has greater digestibility and a different rumen microbial population than HF. Jersey and JE × HF cows had a proportionally greater GIT weight than HF. These differences are likely to contribute to the production efficiency differences among genotypes previously reported.
    • Genetic parameters of dairy cow energy intake and body energy status predicted using mid-infrared spectrometry of milk

      McParland, Sinead; Kennedy, Emer; Lewis, Eva; Moore, Stephen; McCarthy, Brian; O'Donovan, Michael; Berry, Donagh; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; European Commission; Marie Curie project International Research Staff Exchange Scheme SEQSEL; et al. (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2014-12)
      Energy balance (EB) and energy intake (EI) are heritable traits of economic importance. Despite this, neither trait is explicitly included in national dairy cow breeding goals due to a lack of routinely available data from which to compute reliable breeding values. Mid-infrared (MIR) spectrometry, which is performed during routine milk recording, is an accurate predictor of both EB and EI. The objective of this study was to estimate genetic parameters of EB and EI predicted using MIR spectrometry. Measured EI and EB were available for 1,102 Irish Holstein-Friesian cows based on actual feed intake and energy sink data. A subset of these data (1,270 test-day records) was used to develop equations to predict EI, EB, and daily change in body condition score (ΔBCS) and body weight (ΔBW) using the MIR spectrum with or without milk yield also as a predictor variable. Accuracy of cross-validation of the prediction equations was 0.75, 0.73, 0.77, and 0.70 for EI, EB, ΔBCS, and ΔBW, respectively. Prediction equations were applied to additional spectral data, yielding up to 94,653 records of MIR-predicted EI, EB, ΔBCS, and ΔBW available for variance component estimation. Variance components were estimated using repeatability animal linear mixed models. Heritabilities of MIR-predicted EI, EB, ΔBCS, and ΔBW were 0.20, 0.10, 0.07, and 0.06, respectively; heritability estimates of the respective measured traits were 0.35, 0.16, 0.07, and 0.08, respectively. The genetic correlation between measured and MIR-predicted EI was 0.84 and between measured and MIR-predicted EB was 0.54, indicating that selection based on MIR-predicted EI or EB would improve true EI or EB. Genetic and phenotypic associations between EI and both the milk production and body-change traits were generally in agreement, regardless of whether measured EI or MIR-predicted EI was considered. Higher-yielding animals of higher body weight had greater EI. Predicted EB was negatively genetically correlated with milk yield (genetic correlation = −0.29) and positively genetically correlated with both milk fat and protein percent (genetic correlation = 0.17 and 0.16, respectively). Least squares means phenotypic EI of 198 animals stratified as low, average, and high estimated breeding values for MIR-predicted EI (animal phenotypes were not included in the genetic evaluation) were 154.3, 156.0, and 163.3 MJ/d, corroborating that selection on MIR-predicted EI will, on average, result in differences in phenotypic true EI.
    • Genomic prediction of crown rust resistance in Lolium perenne

      Arojju, Sai Krishna; Conaghan, Patrick; Barth, Susanne; Milbourne, Dan; Casler, M.D.; Hodkinson, Trevor R; Michel, Thibauld; Byrne, Stephen L.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Marie Sklodowska-Curie; et al. (Biomed Central, 29/05/2018)
      Background Genomic selection (GS) can accelerate genetic gains in breeding programmes by reducing the time it takes to complete a cycle of selection. Puccinia coronata f. sp lolli (crown rust) is one of the most widespread diseases of perennial ryegrass and can lead to reductions in yield, persistency and nutritional value. Here, we used a large perennial ryegrass population to assess the accuracy of using genome wide markers to predict crown rust resistance and to investigate the factors affecting predictive ability. Results Using these data, predictive ability for crown rust resistance in the complete population reached a maximum of 0.52. Much of the predictive ability resulted from the ability of markers to capture genetic relationships among families within the training set, and reducing the marker density had little impact on predictive ability. Using permutation based variable importance measure and genome wide association studies (GWAS) to identify and rank markers enabled the identification of a small subset of SNPs that could achieve predictive abilities close to those achieved using the complete marker set. Conclusion Using a GWAS to identify and rank markers enabled a small panel of markers to be identified that could achieve higher predictive ability than the same number of randomly selected markers, and predictive abilities close to those achieved with the entire marker set. This was particularly evident in a sub-population characterised by having on-average higher genome-wide linkage disequilibirum (LD). Higher predictive abilities with selected markers over random markers suggests they are in LD with QTL. Accuracy due to genetic relationships will decay rapidly over generations whereas accuracy due to LD will persist, which is advantageous for practical breeding applications.
    • Grassland Phosphorus and Nitrogen Fertiliser Replacement value of Dairy Processing Dewatered Sludge

      Ashekuzzaman, S.M.; Forrestal, Patrick; Richards, Karl G.; Daly, Karen; Fenton, Owen; Enterprise Ireland; Dairy Industry Partners; TC2014 0016 (Elsevier, 21-11-20)
      Dairy processing sludge is currently a bio-based fertiliser being spread to grassland without knowledge pertaining to its phosphorus (P) or nitrogen (N) fertiliser replacement value. This creates uncertainty of desired crop yield achievement and unproductive nutrient recycling and also poses a great challenge to the dairy milk processing industry in promoting their food processing by-product as valuable recyclable fertiliser. Therefore four representative samples, i.e. two activated sludge (aluminium-precipitated (Al-sludge) and iron-precipitated (Fe-sludge)), and two lime-stabilised calcium-precipitated sludge (Ca1- and Ca2-sludge), were examined at field scale to assess P and N availability for crop yield and uptake in comparison to reference mineral fertilisers over one seasonal year. The field plots were set-up on a light textured clay loam soil within the optimum plant available P (Morgan's soil P index 3, i.e. medium / adequate soil P level) in two separate adjoining areas consisting of P and N availability experiments. Each experiment consisted of 40 plots (each 8×2 m2) of 10 treatments with 4 replications arranged in a randomised complete block design. All dairy sludge (40 kg-P ha−1) and mineral P treatments (rates 0–50 kg-P ha−1) produced similar yields and uptake, and crop P was not affected by sludge applications despite the presence of high Al, Ca and Fe. During the experiment there was no significant change in P index (stayed at index 3) indicating that no treatment caused a decline in P into index 2 (i.e. low soil P level), therefore replacing P removed by the crop. The only change in Morgan's P was observed in the Ca-sludge treatments, but this was due to Morgan's reagent overestimating plant available P in high Ca conditions. From N trial plots a significantly higher grass yield and N uptake was observed for Fe and both Ca-type sludge applied plots than the control (zero N) plot during the 1st harvest, while no statistical difference observed in the subsequent harvests (up to 4th harvesting). The N fertiliser replacement value (derived from mineral N response) of sludge samples was observed to be in the order of Fe (54%)>Ca2 (25%)>Ca1 (22%)>Al (8%) with greater promise of N fertiliser efficiency of Fe and Ca types. Overall these bio-based sludges show promise in recycling P and N for grassland application but longer term trials in other soil types considering other environmental aspects (losses to soil, water and air) can further optimize the management of dairy sludge as an alternative to chemical fertiliser.
    • 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, H.; Moloney, Aidan P; Black, Alistair D; European Union; QLK5-CT-2001-0498 (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.
    • 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.
    • Grazing of dairy cows on pasture versus indoor feeding on total mixed ration: Effects on low-moisture part-skim Mozzarella cheese yield and quality characteristics in mid and late lactation

      Gulati, Arunima; Galvin, Norann; Hennessy, Deirdre; McAuliffe, Stephen; O'Donovan, Michael; McManus, Jennifer J.; Fenelon, Mark; Guinee, Timothy P.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Dairy Levy Research Trust; et al. (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2018-08-16)
      This study investigated the effects of 3 dairy cow feeding systems on the composition, yield, and biochemical and physical properties of low-moisture part-skim Mozzarella cheese in mid (ML; May–June) and late (LL; October–November) lactation. Sixty spring-calving cows were assigned to 3 herds, each consisting of 20 cows, and balanced on parity, calving date, and pre-experimental milk yield and milk solids yield. Each herd was allocated to 1 of the following feeding systems: grazing on perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) pasture (GRO), grazing on perennial ryegrass and white clover (Trifolium repens L.) pasture (GRC), or housed indoors and offered total mixed ration (TMR). Mozzarella cheese was manufactured on 3 separate occasions in ML and 4 in LL in 2016. Feeding system had significant effects on milk composition, cheese yield, the elemental composition of cheese, cheese color (green to red and blue to yellow color coordinates), the extent of flow on heating, and the fluidity of the melted cheese. Compared with TMR milk, GRO and GRC milks had higher concentrations of protein and casein and lower concentrations of I, Cu, and Se, higher cheese-yielding capacity, and produced cheese with lower concentrations of the trace elements I, Cu, and Se and higher yellowness value. Cheese from GRO milk had higher heat-induced flow and fluidity than cheese from TMR milk. These effects were observed over the entire lactation period (ML + LL), but varied somewhat in ML and LL. Feeding system had little, or no, effect on gross composition of the cheese, the proportions of milk protein or fat lost to cheese whey, the texture of the unheated cheese, or the energy required to extend the molten cheese. The differences in color and melt characteristics of cheeses obtained from milks with the different feeding systems may provide a basis for creating points of differentiation suited to different markets.
    • How much grassland biomass is available in Ireland in excess of livestock requirements?

      McEniry, Joseph; Crosson, Paul; Finneran, Eoghan; McGee, Mark; Keady, Tim; O'Kiely, Padraig; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF 07 557 (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2013)
      Grassland is a dominant biomass resource in Ireland and underpins most animal production systems. However, other commercial uses for grassland biomass exist, including, for example, the production of biogas through anaerobic digestion for the generation of heat, electricity and transport fuel. The objective of this study was to estimate the annual grassland resource available in Ireland in excess of livestock requirements under six contrasting scenarios. Under current grassland management and production practices there is an estimated average annual grassland resource of ca. 1.7 million tonnes of dry matter (DM) available in excess of livestock requirements. Only a small proportion of this resource (0.39 million tonnes of DM per annum) would be available if the targets set out in ‘Food Harvest 2020’ were achieved. However, increasing nitrogen (N) fertiliser input (to the limit permitted by the E.U. Nitrates Directive) combined with increasing the grazed grass utilisation rate of cattle (from 0.60 to 0.80 kg DM ingested by livestock per kg DM grown) has the potential to significantly increase this average resource to 12.2 million t DM/annum, even when allowing for achievement of ‘Food Harvest 2020’ targets. Under these scenarios, alternative uses for grassland biomass such as anaerobic digestion and green biorefining would not compete with traditional dairy, beef and lamb production systems, but could provide an alternative enterprise and income to farmers.
    • Impact of agronomic practices of an intensive dairy farm on nitrogen concentrations in a karst aquifer in Ireland

      Huebsch, Manuela; Horan, Brendan; Blum, P.; Richards, Karl G.; Grant, Jim; Fenton, Owen; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 24/09/2013)
      Exploring the relationship between agricultural nitrogen loading on a dairy farm and groundwater reactive nitrogen concentration such as nitrate is particularly challenging in areas underlain by thin soils and karstified limestone aquifers. The objective of this study is to relate changes in detailed agronomic N-loading, local weather conditions, hydrogeological and geological site characteristics with groundwater N occurrence over an 11-year period on an intensive dairy farm with free draining soils and a vulnerable limestone aquifer. In addition, the concept of vertical time lag from source to receptor is considered. Statistical analysis used regression with automatic variable selection. Four scenarios were proposed to describe the relationships between paddock and groundwater wells using topographic and hydrogeological assumptions. Monitored nitrate concentrations in the studied limestone aquifer showed a general decrease in the observed time period (2002–2011). Statistical results showed that a combination of improved agronomic practices and site specific characteristics such as thicknesses of the soil and unsaturated zone together with hydrogeological connections of wells and local weather conditions such as rainfall, sunshine and soil moisture deficit were important explanatory variables for nitrate concentrations. Statistical results suggested that the following agronomic changes improved groundwater quality over the 11-year period: reductions in inorganic fertiliser usage, improvements in timing of slurry application, the movement of a dairy soiled water irrigator to less karstified areas of the farm and the usage of minimum cultivation reseeding on the farm. In many cases the explanatory variables of farm management practices tended to become more important after a 1- or 2-year time lag. Results indicated that the present approach can be used to elucidate the effect of farm management changes to groundwater quality and therefore the assessment of present and future legislation implementations.
    • Incorporating white clover (Trifolium repens L.) into perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) swards receiving varying levels of nitrogen fertilizer: Effects on milk and herbage production

      Egan, Michael; Galvin, Norann; Hennessy, Deirdre; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Irish Dairy Levy (Elsevier, 2018-02-04)
      White clover (Trifolium repens L.; clover) can offer a superior nutritional feed compared with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.; PRG) and offers an additional or alternative source (or both) of N for herbage production. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of including clover into PRG swards receiving 150 (Cl150) or 250 kg of N/ha (Cl250) compared with a PRG-only sward receiving 250 kg of N/ha (Gr250) on herbage production, milk production, and herbage dry matter intake (DMI) in an intensive grass-based spring calving milk production system over 2 full lactations. A farm systems experiment was established in February 2013, and conducted over 2 grazing seasons [2013 (yr 1) and 2014 (yr 2)]. In February 2013 (yr 1), 42 Holstein-Friesian spring-calving dairy cows, and in February 2014 (yr 2), 57 Holstein-Friesian spring-calving dairy cows were allocated to graze the Cl150, Cl250, and Gr250 swards (n = 14 in yr 1 and n = 19 in yr 2) from February to November, at a stocking rate of 2.74 cows/ha. Herbage DMI was estimated twice in yr 1 (May and September) and 3 times in yr 2 (May, July, and September). Treatment did not have a significant effect on annual herbage production. Sward clover content was greater on the Cl150 treatment than the Cl250 treatment. The cows grazing both clover treatments (Cl250 and Cl150) produced more milk than the cows grazing Gr250 from June until the end of the grazing season. A significant treatment by measurement period interaction was observed on total DMI. In May, the cows on the Cl250 treatment had the greatest DMI. In July, the cows on the clover treatments had greater DMI than those on the Gr250 treatment, whereas in September, the cows on the Cl150 treatment had the lowest DMI. In conclusion, including clover in a PRG sward grazed by spring-calving dairy cows can result in increased animal performance, particularly in the second half of lactation. Reducing N fertilizer application to 150 kg of N/ha on grass-clover swards did not reduce herbage production compared with grass-only swards receiving 250 kg of N/ha. White clover can play an integral role in intensive grazing systems in terms of animal performance and herbage production.
    • Influence of testing procedure on evaluation of white clover (Trifolium repens L.)

      Gilliland, T. J.; McGilloway, D.; Conaghan, Patrick (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2009)
      This study examined data sets derived from the white clover cultivar evaluation programmes of AFBI (N. Ireland), and DAFF (Republic of Ireland) to determine whether elite performing genotypes are identifiable, independent of test procedure and leaf size factors. Genetic variation in yield and persistency, independent of the leaf size continuum effect, was observed. Identification of elite cultivars by breeders or testers therefore required readjustment of assessment standards to account for the mostly curvilinear relationships between performance and leaf size. The different testing procedures, involving cutting or grazing at different heights, frequencies and nitrogen rates changed the relative performances between the cultivars, making it difficult to predict performance potential beyond specific test conditions. The underlying causes for these changes in rankings was considered, including sensitivity to season and location, the antagonistic affects of defoliation pressure and companion grass competition, the independence of different seasonal profiles and the probable role of other morphological characteristics. In is concluded that testing authorities must calculate the management by leaf size relationships to adjust pass/fail standards if elite performing cultivars are to be correctly indentified.
    • 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.
    • Intake, growth and feed conversion efficiency of finishing beef cattle offered diets based on triticale, maize or grass silages, or ad libitum concentrates

      O'Kiely, Padraig (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      The intake, growth and feed conversion efficiency of finishing cattle offered whole-crop triticale silage, harvested at different stubble heights, or maize silage, supplemented with different amounts and forms of crude protein, were compared with those of cattle offered grass silage or concentrate ad libitum. Ninety-eight continental crossbred steers (mean (s.d.) initial live weight 509 (38.6) kg) were allocated among 7 treatments in a randomized complete-block design: triticale silage from a crop harvested to a 14 (TS-L) or 35 (TS-H) cm high stubble, maize silage supplemented with a low (MS-LS) or high (MS-HS) protein concentrate, or with approximately half of the supplementary crude protein replaced by urea (MS-SU), grass silage (GS) or concentrate offered ad libitum (ALC). Each silage was offered ad libitum for 134 days, supplemented with 3 kg concentrate per head daily. Carcass gain did not differ (P>0.05) between animals on treatments TS-L and TS-H, but the carcass gain associated with TS-L was lower (P<0.05) than with GS or MS-HS, and with TS-H compared with MS-HS. Carcass gain was lower (P<0.05) for steers on GS compared to MS-HS, there were no differences (P>0.05) among the values for MS-LS, MS-HS and MS-SU; the carcass gain associated with ALC was the highest (P<0.001). The feed efficiency for carcass gain for the animals on TS-L, TS-H, GS, MS-LS, MS-HS, MS-SU and ALC was 44.1, 48.2, 60.8, 59.3, 68.3, 59.8 and 90.1 (s.e. 4.26) kg/t total DM intake, respectively (P<0.001). It is concluded that the ranking on nutritive value was TS<GS<MS<ALC. Elevating the cutting height of triticale conferred little benefit. Half the soybean meal in the barley-based supplement to maize silage could be replaced by barley plus urea without a negative effect on animal performance.
    • 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.
    • 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.