• Red clover: A promising pasture legume for Ireland

      Weldon, B. A.; O'Kiely, P. (2021-04-11)
      Red clover is considered a very productive but short lived perennial legume. Previous research has shown attractive yields for red clover in the first year after establishment (O’Kiely et al., 2006). This experiment quantified the impacts of cultivar, companion grass, harvest schedule and nitrogen fertiliser on crop yield in the sixth year after establishment, and compared these to grass receiving inorganic N fertiliser.
    • 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.
    • Requirements of future grass-based ruminant production systems in Ireland

      O'Donovan, Michael; Lewis, Eva; O'Kiely, Padraig (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      There is a renewed interest in grazing systems in many temperate and subtropical regions of the world. This results from lower inflation-adjusted prices, the proposed removal of some subsidies and tariffs, and rising labour, machinery and housing costs. The utilization of grass by grazing should provide the basis of sustainable livestock systems as grazed grass is the cheapest source of nutrients for ruminants. This is very important in the Irish context as there are approximately 130 000 farmers involved in primary production in Ireland and the value of the goods produced was €5.8 billion in 2008. For the future, the key objective for grazing systems is to ensure high grass utilization, allowing increased output per hectare for all sectors. The primary emphasis in grass breeding needs to be focused on (i) seasonal growth pattern as well as overall annual growth, (ii) nutritive value, including digestibility, particularly in the mid-season period, (iii) ensuring a sward canopy structure that is suitable for grazing, and (iv) development of persistent cultivars that perform under farm conditions. Evaluation programmes should also consider including an estimate of production potential at the field as well as at plot level, and evaluation under grazing management systems as well as under mixed grazing/silage management systems. It is difficult to accurately quantify the breeding achievements for grass mainly because its value, whether grazed or conserved, must be indirectly realised through the output of animal product. Grass evaluation and breeding need to better accommodate the requirements of the grazing ruminant. This will necessitate the application of new approaches and knowledge, which will ultimately enable further increases in animal output per hectare to be achieved.
    • The role of grasslands in food security and climate change

      O'Mara, Frank P. (Oxford University Press, 2012-09-21)
      Background: Grasslands are a major part of the global ecosystem, covering 37 % of the earth's terrestrial area. For a variety of reasons, mostly related to overgrazing and the resulting problems of soil erosion and weed encroachment, many of the world's natural grasslands are in poor condition and showing signs of degradation. This review examines their contribution to global food supply and to combating climate change. Scope: Grasslands make a significant contribution to food security through providing part of the feed requirements of ruminants used for meat and milk production. Globally, this is more important in food energy terms than pig meat and poultry meat. Grasslands are considered to have the potential to play a key role in greenhouse gas mitigation, particularly in terms of global carbon storage and further carbon sequestration. It is estimated that grazing land management and pasture improvement (e.g. through managing grazing intensity, improved productivity, etc) have a global technical mitigation potential of almost 1·5 Gt CO2 equivalent in 2030, with additional mitigation possible from restoration of degraded lands. Milk and meat production from grassland systems in temperate regions has similar emissions of carbon dioxide per kilogram of product as mixed farming systems in temperate regions, and, if carbon sinks in grasslands are taken into account, grassland-based production systems can be as efficient as high-input systems from a greenhouse gas perspective. Conclusions: Grasslands are important for global food supply, contributing to ruminant milk and meat production. Extra food will need to come from the world's existing agricultural land base (including grasslands) as the total area of agricultural land has remained static since 1991. Ruminants are efficient converters of grass into humanly edible energy and protein and grassland-based food production can produce food with a comparable carbon footprint as mixed systems. Grasslands are a very important store of carbon, and they are continuing to sequester carbon with considerable potential to increase this further. Grassland adaptation to climate change will be variable, with possible increases or decreases in productivity and increases or decreases in soil carbon stores.
    • 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.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF –07 526 (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.
    • Short communication: Effect of feeding pooled and nonpooled high-quality colostrum on passive transfer of immunity, morbidity, and mortality in dairy calves

      King, Ailbhe; Chigerwe, Munashe; Barry, John; Murphy, John P.; Rayburn, Maire C.; Kennedy, Emer; University of California Davis (American Dairy Science Association, 2020-02)
      Pooling colostrum is commonly practiced on Irish dairy farms. Pooling can result in dilution when colostrums with high and low IgG concentrations are mixed, thereby predisposing calves to failure of passive immunity. The objectives of this study were to compare IgG concentrations in colostrum from individual cows with colostrum pooled from several cows, and assess serum IgG concentrations, morbidity, and mortality among calves fed colostrum from their own dam, from a different cow, or pooled from several cows. We hypothesized that pooling colostrum reduces IgG concentration due to dilution compared with colostrum from individual cows, and that calves fed pooled colostrum achieve lower serum IgG concentrations than calves fed colostrum from individual cows. Calves were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: (1) fed colostrum from their own dam (n = 20); (2) fed colostrum from a different dam (n = 20); or (3) fed pooled colostrum (n = 18). A sample of colostrum fed to each calf was collected. Serum samples were collected from calves at birth (0 h) and at 24 h after colostrum feeding. Colostrum and serum IgG concentrations were measured by radial immunodiffusion. Calves were weighed at birth and at weaning, and the health status of each calf was assessed twice daily. Health assessment was based on general demeanor, rectal temperature, fecal consistency, respiratory rate, and the presence of cough, nasal, or ocular discharge. Colostrum and serum IgG concentrations, and weaning weights were compared using ANOVA. Associations between group and morbidity or mortality rates were compared using χ2 or Fisher’s exact tests. Median and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) of IgG concentrations of colostrum were 99.4 (81.8–111.5), 95.2 (84.1–107.2), and 100.7 (90.5–104.4) g/L for own dam, different dam, and pooled groups, respectively. We did not find any differences in colostrum IgG concentrations among the colostrum sources. Median (95% CI) serum IgG concentrations at 24 h were 52.0 (45.6–65.9), 55.7 (51.2–65.9), and 53.1 (46.2–63.7) g/L for calves that received colostrum from own dam, different dam, and pooled, respectively. All calves achieved adequate passive immunity. Serum IgG concentrations at 24 h, weaning weights, and proportions of morbidity and mortality were not different among the 3 groups. Our results suggest that on dairy farms where median colostrum IgG concentrations are high and colostrum management is optimal, pooling has a minimal effect on passive immunity and subsequent calf health.
    • 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 Walsh Fellowship Programme (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.
    • Studies into the dynamics of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) seed mixtures

      Gilliland, T. J.; Hennessy, Deirdre; Griffith, V. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      The dynamic interactions of four perennial ryegrass seed mixtures sold in Northern Ireland were studied under simulated grazing and conservation managements. Mixture composition was determined as changes in phosphoglucoisomerase isozyme frequencies by calculation from known isozyme frequencies of the component varieties. Mixture productivity was measured over 4 growing seasons and compared with yields predicted from those of the components in monoculture, weighted for their actual proportion in the mixture. No significant differences were found between actual yields for mixtures and their predicted yields, but when these differences were regressed against the heading date range among the varieties in each mixture, a significant relationship was observed. A wide range in heading date among the components of the mixtures was associated with increased yield stability over years and with a declining yield advantage for the mixture compared to its components grown as monocultures. In this aspect, the mixtures showed a more rapid decline under conservation management than under simulated grazing. Mixtures also had a flatter seasonal yield-production profile than their component varieties. Tetraploid components were more aggressive than diploids, though a more open-growing diploid maintained its proportion in the sward better than a dense-growing type and manipulating the sowing ratios could be used to influence final sward composition after 2 years. It was concluded that the differences in heading date range within mixtures had a significant impact on mixture dynamics, with the tetraploid component being the most aggressive.
    • 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).
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Teagasc submission made in response to the Consultation Paper on Interim Review of Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation 2019

      Spink, John; Buckley, Cathal; Burgess, Edward; Daly, Karen M.; Dillon, Pat; Fenton, Owen; Horan, Brendan; Humphreys, James; Hyde, Tim; McCarthy, Brian; et al. (Teagasc, 2019-06-04)
      This submission was made in response to the consultation process run jointly by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (DHPCLG) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) inviting views and comments on proposals for the Interim Review of Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation Programme in 2019. It has been prepared by Teagasc’s Water Quality Working Group in consultation with the Gaseous Emissions Working Group. These working groups have members drawn from both the Knowledge Transfer and Research Directorates of Teagasc. It was prepared following consultation with colleagues across Teagasc using their collective knowledge and expertise in agri-environmental science and practice and the implementation of the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and Nitrates Derogation Regulations.
    • A theoretical and practical analysis of the optimum breeding system for perennial ryegrass

      Conaghan, Patrick; Casler, M.D. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      The goal of plant breeding is to effectively and efficiently select for the best phenotypes leading to the development of improved cultivars. The objectives for this review are to describe and critically evaluate breeding methods appropriate to the improvement of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) in a long-term breeding programme. The optimum breeding system is dependent on the traits for improvement, and the available physical and human resources. Forage dry matter yield, persistency, disease resistance, nutritional value and seed yield are considered among the most important traits for improvement. Careful consideration should be given to the expression of the trait under the management regime imposed in the breeding programme and under real-world sward conditions in the target sowing region. Recurrent selection programmes for intrapopulation improvement are most appropriate for breeding perennial ryegrass. Three distinct types of recurrent selection may be implemented: (i) phenotypic recurrent selection, (ii) genotypic recurrent selection and (iii) marker-assisted selection. Genotypic recurrent selection will be a necessary part of the breeding system if forage yield is a trait for improvement. Genotypic recurrent selection may be practiced using full-sib or half-sib families, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Phenotypic recurrent selection in tandem (i.e., within-family selection) or in succession with genotypic recurrent selection should be used to improve traits that have a high-correlation between performance from spaced plants and from sward plots. Genome-wide selection represents the most interesting and exciting potential application of marker-assisted selection, although it remains to be seen how beneficial it will be in practice.
    • 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.
    • Using variable importance measures to identify a small set of SNPs to predict heading date in perennial ryegrass.

      Byrne, Stephen; Conaghan, Patrick; Barth, Susanne; Arojju, Sai Krishna; Casler, Michael; Michel, Thibauld; Velmurugan, Janaki; Milbourne, Dan; E.U. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; et al. (Nature, 2017-06-15)
      Prior knowledge on heading date enables the selection of parents of synthetic cultivars that are well matched with respect to time of heading, which is essential to ensure plants put together will cross pollinate. Heading date of individual plants can be determined via direct phenotyping, which has a time and labour cost. It can also be inferred from family means, although the spread in days to heading within families demands roguing in first generation synthetics. Another option is to predict heading date from molecular markers. In this study we used a large training population consisting of individual plants to develop equations to predict heading date from marker genotypes. Using permutation-based variable selection measures we reduced the marker set from 217,563 to 50 without impacting the predictive ability. Opportunities exist to develop a cheap assay to sequence a small number of regions in linkage disequilibrium with heading date QTL in thousands of samples. Simultaneous use of these markers in non-linkage based marker-assisted selection approaches, such as paternity testing, should enhance the utility of such an approach.
    • The variation in morphology of perennial ryegrass cultivars throughout the grazing season and effects on organic matter digestibility

      Beecher, Marion; Hennessy, Deirdre; Boland, T. M.; McEvoy, Mary; O'Donovan, Michael; Lewis, Eva (Wiley, 2013-09-19)
      The grass plant comprises leaf, pseudostem, true stem (including inflorescence) and dead material. These components differ in digestibility, and variations in their relative proportions can affect sward quality. The objective of this study was to determine the change in the proportion and organic matter digestibility (OMD) of leaf, pseudostem, true stem and dead components of four perennial ryegrass cultivars (two tetraploids: Astonenergy and Bealey and two diploids: Abermagic and Spelga) throughout a grazing season. The DM proportions and in vitro OMD of leaf, pseudostem, true stem and dead in all cultivars were determined during ten grazing rotations between May 2011 and March 2012. There was an interaction between rotation and cultivar for leaf, pseudostem, true stem and dead proportions. In May and June, Astonenergy had the highest leaf and lowest true stem proportion (P < 0·05). From July onwards, there was no difference in leaf or true stem proportion between cultivars. Bealey had the highest annual mean OMD (752 g kg−1) and Spelga the lowest (696 g kg−1; P < 0·05). The OMD followed the order leaf > pseudostem > true stem > dead. Bealey had the highest combined leaf and pseudostem proportion 0·92, which explains why it had the highest OMD. In this study, the tetraploid cultivars had the highest leaf and pseudostem proportion and OMD. For accurate descriptions of a sward in grazing studies and to accurately determine sward morphological composition, pseudostem should be separated from true stem, particularly during the reproductive stage when true stem is present.
    • Variations in travel time for N loading to groundwaters in four case studies in Ireland:Implications for policy makers and regulators

      Fenton, Owen; Coxon, Catherine E.; Haria, Atul H.; Horan, Brendan; Humphreys, James; Johnston, Paul; Murphy, Paul N. C.; Necpalova, Magdalena; Premrov, Alina; Richards, Karl G. (School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin in association with Teagasc, 2009)
      Mitigation measures to protect waterbodies must be implemented by 2012 to meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive. The efficacy of these measures will be assessed in 2015. Whilst diffuse N pathways between source and receptor are generally long and complex, EU legislation does not account for differences in hydrological travel time distributions that may result in different water quality response times. The “lag time” between introducing mitigation measures and first improvements in water quality is likely to be different in different catchments; a process that should be considered by policy makers and catchment managers. Many examples of travel time variations have been quoted in the literature but no Irish specific examples are available. Lag times based on initial nutrient breakthrough at four contrasting sites were estimated to a receptor 500 m away from a source. Vertical travel times were estimated using a combination of depth of infiltration calculations based on effective rainfall and subsoil physical parameters and existing hydrological tracer data. Horizontal travel times were estimated using a combination of Darcian linear velocity calculations and existing tracer migration data. Total travel times, assuming no biogeochemical processes, ranged from months to decades between the contrasting sites; the shortest times occurred under thin soil/subsoil on karst limestone and the longest times through thick low permeability soils/subsoils over poorly productive aquifers. Policy makers should consider hydrological lag times when assessing the efficacy of mitigation measures introduced under the Water Framework Directive. This lag time reflects complete flushing of a particular nutrient from source to receptor. Further research is required to assess the potential mitigation of nitrate through denitrification along the pathway from source to receptor.